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  • Writer's pictureRob Connor

Excellent letter to Mill Hill School shared by a supporter

This letter was shared by a supporter. It was sent to Mill Hill School in response to their consultation to local residents regarding the closures of the historic rights of way that run through it's grounds. I thought that it was worth sharing as a great example of a structured, well thought out response, that summed up many of our own thoughts on the proposed closures.

Dear Sir/Madam As long term residents of Mill Hill (and parents of a past-pupil at MHS) my wife and I, and our family, have been walking the footpath which runs down through the school from Wills Grove to the bus stop on Hammers Lane for more than 30 years, and it was with a great sense of disappointment and upset that we read the notice posted on the path advising of your intention to seek permission from Barnet Council to close the same. Having considered your motives and the details of the proposal which are set out on your website, we have the following comments to make: 1 The proposals are styled as ‘redirection’ and expressly state that ‘no footpaths will be closed’. We assert that this is factually inaccurate as your proposals involve a closure of the existing footpath through the school, and its replacement with a new route which will not share the existing start point on Will Grove at the East end of the current path. This is, by any conventional interpretation, not redirection, but closure and replacement. 2 It is accepted that you have a primary duty to protect the pupils at your school. You state that the existing footpath compromises your ability to know who is on school grounds, and you assert that the existing footpath, ‘represents a significant safeguarding challenge’. However we note that the existing footpath has been in use for a very long period of time, and we infer that the school has discharged its duty to its pupils effectively throughout. There is therefore no prima facie reason for the footpath to be closed. 3 Even if, which is not accepted, the existing footpath compromises your ability to know who is on school grounds, we assert that your duties to your pupils can be discharged by the effective deployment of CCTV, monitoring, fencing, hedging and/or other measures along the route of the path, in the same way that much of the rest of the 120 acre School site is currently monitored and controlled. Indeed we note that you have already started this process by planting hawthorn to the periphery of the footpath. This is a sensible, prudent measure and will in time provide effective additional hedging. 4 When considering the closure of an existing footpath the rights of local residents and other users of the existing path must be weighed against the desire of MHS to exert control for its own purposes over the land, with a presumption in favour of the existing rights. 5 The proposed change would, if allowed, strip local residents and other users of the footpath of their rights to use the existing path for 365 days per year in perpetuity, and yet we note that the school has the majority of its pupils on site for just three terms in the year, and for a large part of the summer the school is empty of its pupils, whereas the path is used by local residents and others all year round. On the duration of the impact of the proposals alone, there is a disproportionate negative impact on the rights of local residents and other users. In summary, far from enhancing its position in the Mill Hill community, the proposals represent a literal closing-off of the school site from that same community. The optics of the proposals are those of a large and well-resourced organisation riding roughshod over the long-held and valued rights of local residents and other users, and are in our opinion a misjudgement. We wish to register our strong opposition to the proposals.
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