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'Close route to trouble'.

Byline: Dave Robson

A walkway is proving a path to despair for a Teesside family.

Rowdy gangs of youths use the small path in Whale Hill, Eston, as a place to take drugs, speed around on motorbikes and cause criminal damage. But that means misery for Ian Colpitts, whose three-bed semi and adjoining garage run alongside it.

Bus driver Mr Colpitts says the situation has become intolerable for him, wife Marjorie and their three children still living at home. Now he wants Redcar and Cleveland Council to block the path off or sell it to him so he can build on it.

The council sympathises but says closing a path is not a straightforward matter.

The path runs from Wilton Way to derelict land originally earmarked for garages, but which were never built.

Mr Colpitts says the problems have been going on for 18 months but reached a head at the weekend when his Ford Mondeo suffered pounds 1,300 worth of vandalism.

He has even tried to let his privet hedge grow over the path so it would deter people from using it, but the council told him to trim it back.

As he cut the hedge back, he uncovered drugs gear, including silver paper, syringes, spoons and a travel sweet tin containing tablets. He says the gangs of ten to 15 youths who regularly meet there use it as a toilet, have set fire to bushes and put his caravan window through.

Mr Colpitts, 46, added: "It's making our lives a misery. The council says it is a public right of way, but it was only put there for people to have access to garages - garages which were never built. It's no use to anyone.

"I just want them to brick it up or let me buy it and I'll extend my drive and garage over it."

A council spokesman said the footpath was adopted by the authority in 1971.

It runs for 25m from Wilton Way to the derelict land, then 10m across the land and a 30m stretch linking it with Birchington Avenue.

He confirmed Mr Colpitts had asked public rights of way officer, Patrick Moran, about closing the path and that he had been asked to put his request in writing.

He also pointed out the council is currently trying to close four paths plagued by anti-social behaviour in Skelton, Teesville and South Bank. But, he said, it is a long, complex process which, if public objections come in, may end in public inquiries.

Councillor Eric Empson, the council's Cabinet member for strategic planning, development and infrastructure, said: "We have great sympathy with the problems Mr Colpitts highlights, but this is not an easy issue. For every person who wants a footpath or right of way closing, there is often another who wants it open."
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 15, 2003
Words:470
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