A ROW over residents’ access to a pathway has been reignited after a school blocked access to it.

Councillors issued an appeal to the community asking them to declare how often they use the path close to Philip Morant School in Colchester.

They aim to use the information to convince Essex County Council to make the walkway an official public footpath, which could be properly maintained.

In response, the school governors fenced off the path, which runs from each end of Norman Way.

It is part-owned by the school and has been the subject of rows and disputes for several years.

Sue Lissimore, ward councillor for Prettygate, said: “Councillors want to turn it into a proper path, but need a declaration to say it has been used regularly for 20 years as a footpath.

“Philip Morant governors have now closed it.

“They have got wind of the fact we are trying to change it into a public footpath.

“We knew Philip Morant wouldn’t be happy.

“It is all do with their plans for the future and what they want to do is sell some of the land for housing.

“It is all pie in the sky, but I am furious.”

Will Quince, fellow ward councillor and Colchester’s MP, said: “It is quite an aggressive stance for them to take, to just put a fence up with no warning to the public and no indication as to how long it will be blocked off.”

He added: “Philip Morant is a very good school, it is doing really good things and it is in the heart of the community, but if they want the local community and residents to think positively about the school they need to be respectful as well.”

Mr Quince spoke with chairman of governors, Lorna Kean, who claimed it was a complex legal situation meaning the school needs to routinely express its ownership of the pathway.

He saidd: “They say they have done that for some time, but I have never heard from a resident that that has been the case.

“It is a key link route between the three schools – St Benedict’s, the Girls’ High and Philip Morant – that’s why it is so important.”

The footpath came under threat in 2010 after Philip Morant wanted to shut it off as part of a new land deal and build a new one around the school’s detached playing field.

But the proposal enraged members of the Irvine Road Area Residents’ Association, who fought to protect the open space on the nearby Green and Irvine Road Field.

The Gazette tried to contact the school’s chairman of governors, but she did not respond.