The Open Spaces Society is calling on Windsor and Maidenhead Council to reject the planning application for a footpath along Ray Mead Road instead of reopening the towpath.
The controversial site is just upstream of Maidenhead Bridge where walkers have to leave the historic line of towpath and go inland round a building.
Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, says: “While the application is seemingly innocuous it would have a devastating effect on the future of the Thames Path National Trail.
“At present the Thames Path is forced away from the river by the properties at Bridge View. The goal, for the council, Natural England and user and amenity groups, is to provide a riverside route all the way. The name ‘Thames Path’ is a travesty in Maidenhead when you are forced to walk alongside the busy Ray Mead Road.”
“The proposed path creation alongside Bridge View in Ray Mead Road will not make a safer route for pedestrians. It is only 1.5 metres wide at a maximum, and the occupiers of Bridge View will need parking spaces. These would be severely reduced by the creation of the footpath. The occupiers would no doubt attempt to park in smaller spaces than they have now and would inevitably park over the footpath. They would certainly drive to and fro across it.
“So walkers on the footpath will have to vie not only with the heavy traffic in Ray Mead Road, but also with the parked and moving cars belonging to the occupants of Bridge View. The proposed new footpath will merely exacerbate an already unsatisfactory and dangerous situation.
“Last year the council proposed to provide eight parking-spaces in Bridge Gardens as part of the package for creating the new path along Ray Mead Road. Fortunately, that plan for a car-park has been abandoned. It was anyway contrary to the use of Bridge Gardens as a public open space. Without the provision of alternative parking space, the occupants of Bridge View will wish to park outside their properties. The council does not have sufficient resources constantly to enforce against abuse and obstruction of the public footpath.”
Kate concludes: “If this application is accepted it will severely set back the opportunity to provide a riverside route for the Thames Path beside the River Thames. The Thames Path National Trail is of national and international importance. It brings visitors into the heart of Maidenhead and should be celebrated not relegated to a busy roadside route.”