COUNCILLORS have given their backing for a blocked-off route linking two residential streets in Poole to be designated as a public right of way.

The footpath linking Sheringham Road and James Road was blocked off by an adjoining homeowner in 2017, prompting a neighbour to apply for it to be formally classified as a public route.

And, ahead of a final decision being made by BCP Council’s cabinet, members of its transportation advisory group gave their support to the move at a meeting on Wednesday.

The route is marked as a footpath on maps dating back to 1931 but was fenced off by Michael Atherton, whose home adjoins it in 2017.

He said he had never seen anyone using the route and that there was “no evidence” to show it had been used for the continuous 20-year period required under law for it to be designated.

He was supported by ward councillor Toby Johnson who said he was “astounded” the route could be considered a footpath.

“The land is untraversable,” he said. “It is obstructed by trees clearly more than 20 years of age as well as being less than one metre wide and being extremely steep and uneven.

“I find it impossible to believe this path has been used for the necessary period of time.”

But council rights of way officer Zak Cusens said the evidence submitted as part of the application to make the route a public right of way was “reasonable”.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting, the designation was also supported by nearby residents John White and Ms O’Brien who said it had been regularly used by their families.

“The blockage blocks everyone’s access,” Ms O’Brien said. “It also forces people living in James Road to take a more dangerous way when walking to local primary schools and a massive detour for people to get to a bus stop.”

Their position was supported by members of the advisory group who agreed to recommend that the council’s cabinet make it a public right of way.

Councillor Simon Bull said: “It’s very clear there has been a footpath, at least in the last 10 years because otherwise the land would not lay the way it does.

“I’m fairly convinced there is a footpath and there has been one for a long time.”

A final decision will now need to be made by the cabinet.