PROTECTING A MUCH-LOVED FOOTPATH I WALKED MORE THAN 5,000 TIMES

As a young child I went to Drapers Mills school and my route to and from school each day took me up and down the long, steep footpath between Dane Valley and the school that stands in the shadow of our famous landmark windmill.

Indeed, my 'way too soft' parents allowed me to come home for lunch each and every day as a kid, so I walked the steep footpath four times daily. As I attended both the primary and the junior school I estimate I walked the footpath at least 5,000 times. In fact it was probably many more times, as the same path was also often part of the route to my senior school at St John's, just a little further down the adjoining St Peter's footpath.

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The wider footpath - following negotiations.

So imagine my shock when one day during my term as a County Councillor for Margate and Cliftonville, I was driving through the Kind Edward crossroads at Dane Valley, when I looked across to see what appeared to be 'industrial railway-type sidings' being built around the allotments.

My car screeched to a halt and on closer inspection I discovered contractors were erecting ugly, grey, galvanised, palisade fencing around the allotments to keep vandals at bay. To some extent understandable, but worse still, they planned to erect the same ugly fencing directly either side of the footpath, making the heavily used access to the school less than four feet wide.

I explained to the contractors that a footpath that long, just four feet wide, with such high industrial looking grey, galvanised fencing directly on each side would be incredibly ugly and to some extent dangerous for those having to pass in such close proximity. It would have been nothing less than a tall ugly narrow tunnel.

I demanded they stop work immediately whilst I contacted council officers. Luckily, they agreed to stop while discussions took place. It was too late to do anything about the hundreds of yards of grey galvanised fencing already built around the perimeter of the allotments, but I made a strong argument to soften the effects for children using the much-loved footpath.

After a very long and heated debate I eventually got the fences moved back several feet on each side of the path and most importantly, I had the fences changed in colour to 'powder green'.

The end result was far from perfect and nothing like the hedgrows I walked between for so may years, but I absolutely dread to think what it would have been like, had the original narrow, tall, grey, industrial type tunnel been built as per the original plans.

Several years on, greenery now softens the effect further.

As a coucillor you do what you can when you can.

Thank goodness I was driving that way that day.

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Clive Hart