More than 50 Port Talbot campaigners at footpath meeting
PORT Talbot campaigners opposing plans to close a beach footpath turned out in full force at a pre-inquiry meeting.
Due to objections to Neath Port Talbot Council's proposals to close footpath 92 from Langland's lane in Margam, and have a diversion order for the path from Kenfig Nature Reserve, known as footpath 93 — a four-day inquiry will be held in November.
It will also look into the creation order of a new footpath which would form part of the Wales Coastal Path.
To make sure the inquiry is run efficiently, inspector Helen Slade, held a pre-inquiry meeting at Margam Park's Orangery yesterday.
More than 50 campaigners, who have been opposing the changes to the footpaths near Morfa Beach since August 2011, attended the meeting.
Mrs Slade, who has been appointed by Welsh Ministers, said she undertook her own site visit of the footpaths on Monday. "I walked the whole lot of it and it took me the best part of four hours," she said.
It was suggested that a formal site visit for all interested parties could take place on Monday, November 4 — the day before the inquiry is due to start.
This will be subject to Tata Steel's approval, as some of the land to be debated is owned by them.
The meeting also heard from the people who wanted to speak at the inquiry. The council's barrister, Edwin Simpson, said they would only be calling Jonathan Griffiths, who is the council's rights of way officer, as a witness.
In response, chairman of the action group Save Morfa Beach (Friends of Morfa), Dr Charles Smith, said he was "surprised" to hear that they would not be calling a Tata Steel representative.
Those who wish to speak at the inquiry will include Terry Griffiths, from the Neath Port Talbot Ramblers, who will be supporting the diversion and creation orders, but will be opposing the extinguishment order of footpath 92.
Margam councillor Robert Jones will be speaking on behalf of the campaign group.
Several other residents also said they would like to make representations at the inquiry. Mrs Slade also requested for several maps — one which indicates landownership — and paperwork in relation to the Wales Coastal Path. Mr Simpson said the council also intended to carry out traffic survey.
Following the meeting, Dr Smith said he was pleased with the turnout.
He added: "I am very impressed with the business-like and impartiality of the inspector."
A Tata Steel spokesman added: "We have assisted the local authority with their footpath proposal. How they approach the inquiry is a question for the council, it would be inappropriate for us to comment."
The council's head of planning, Nicola Pearce, said: "I can confirm that the council will be represented by its rights of way officer, as in all inquiry cases."