CHRISTCHURCH residents upset over the temporary closure of a public footpath jeered as council officers defended the decision.

The path, which leads through Druitt Gardens, has frustrated those who unsuccessfully campaigned against a compound being placed nearby earlier this year.

It has closed the access from Wick Lane car park as the result of ongoing work to build a retirement complex on the Cornfactor site following approval from the council in 2013.

But some councillors say that the closure – undertaken on the grounds of health and safety – is unnecessary as contractors are failing to use the closed area as they agreed to do with the council.

Councillor Colin Bungey said at the town’s community services committee meeting: “Developers and contractors are flouting the conditions and we have put up with the impunity and do nothing about it.”

When the footpath was first closed, Neil Farmer, strategic director at Christchurch Borough Council, said: “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.”

Cllr Bernie Davies said: “The safety of the public is of paramount importance and I had no hesitation in acceding to the officers’ request [to close the footpath temporarily].”

A petition for the footpath to be reopened was given to the council in February.

It reads: “We the undersigned deplore the closure of the path from Wick Lane car park to Druitt Gardens, which appears to be unnecessary for the construction on the Cornfactor site”, and continues: “We ask Christchurch Borough Council to instruct Renaissance Retirement Ltd, the developer of the Cornfactor site, to move the fencing surrounding their compound which is blocking the public access to the Wick Lane car park.”

Councillors voted to uphold the officers’ recommendation to note the content of the petition and confirm the requirement for the closure of pedestrian access to the gardens during the development of the Cornfactor site.