CONCERNS have been raised about the potential closure of a footpath through Christchurch’s beloved Druitt Gardens.

Campaigners who unsuccessfully fought against a compound being placed near the gardens earlier this year, said they were concerned about the decision-making process to close the access from Wick Lane car park.

The compound and access issues have arisen as a result of work to build a retirement complex on the Cornfactor site following approval from Christ-church Council last year.

A subsequent proposal from the developer, Renaissance Retirement Ltd, to fell a number of trees in the gardens, was refused by the planning committee this month after a boisterous campaign by residents to save them.

Elliot Marx, one of the campaigners, said in an email to Judith Plumley, head of community and leisure at Christ-church council: “I have to remind you that in all of this juggling of works to allow a private developer to take over a public open space, gifted as a garden of rest and a bird sanctuary, the secrecy involved and the unwillingness of council officials to consult or even advise the local residents forum, the Christchurch Citizens Association, in advance of these plans does not bode well for a council which boasts of its total transparency.”

Christchurch Conservation Trust has also raised concerns.

‘Closure was agreed’

NEIL Farmer, strategic director at Christchurch Borough Council, said: “The closure of the footpath was agreed by the Community Services Committee and, whilst we accept that there is some inconvenience, the developer has provided an alternative permanent route through the gardens from the bottom end of the car park.

“Access to the High Street is still possible from the top of the car park alongside the Regent Centre.

“Arrangements have been made to alter the vehicle access into the gardens through the double gates but the compound in the car park needs to block the upper pedestrian access to the gardens to allow for welfare and storage facilities for contractor staff as also agreed by the committee.

“We have looked into the alternatives but, from a health and safety point of view, the work requires this to happen.

“We will monitor the footpath and seek to open this pedestrian access into the gardens again at the earliest opportunity.”