Proposals to close an alleyway in Burton town centre, which is believed to have been used for more than 1,000 years, has sparked upset among some readers.
Andressey Passage could be closed for good as part of a large-scale revamp of Burton town centre – a proposal which has sparked fury among some readers who believe it is also a public right of way.
East Staffordshire Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council have unveiled a list of improvements they hope to make to the town, as part of the East Staffordshire Town Centre Regeneration Programme, which was launched in February.
While any regeneration of the town centre has been mainly welcomed, some readers have said Andressey Passage should remain open due to its historical value.
The alleyway, which links the High Street to Friars Walk, has long been a notorious area for crime. In 2011, the alleyway featured on BBC1's Crimewatch after a woman was left unconscious following an attack in the alleyway. The shocking CCTV footage was later shown on the programme, and four men were jailed for the attack.
Quoting from website Burton2000.co.uk on the Saint Modwen and Burton Abbey information page, Kim Paula claimed on the Burton Mail's Facebook page: "The Andressey Passage, once known as the Marriots Yard which leads from the side of old grammar school in Friars Walk through to the High Street, once contained workers' cottages. It is recorded in 1841 that the cottages were occupied by six labourers and a butcher.
"It has been a public right of way since Anglo Saxon times (around the year AD 660). It was probably used by Saint Modwen to get to Andressey Island, by the people seeking a cure or a blessing from Saint Modwen, by pilgrims visiting Saint Modwen's shrine after her death, by the monks of Burton at the time of the abbey, by scholars attending the old grammar school, and by the Burtonians and visitors to the town right up to present day. The passage has been in use for more than 1,000 years."
Kim MacBeth, who helped launch the Friends of Ferry Bridge group which eventually led to the revamp of the bridge, claimed: "Andressey Passage is part of Burton's ancient history. There has been a walkway there since medieval times, maybe even longer.
"To close it would be yet more heritage destroyed and that would be a shame. It is also regularly used and convenient for the memorial gardens and library. It could use a regular clean, lighting and CCTV."
Theoisok wrote on the Burton Mail's website: "I totally disagree with closing the Andressey Passage. The Washlands should be opened up more to High Street, not less. If this were to be shut off, access to the Washlands would not be possible between the library and the market place. The passage is fairly well used and does not pose any threat in the daytime, (close it at night?). It does however need cleaning and tidying up. With a bit of vision, the old Refinary building could be opened as a cafe as it has a large outside area as well. I would suggest it could be opened as café/bar in the evening as well?"
Fellow Friends of Ferry Bridge member, Marg Harrison said: "Isn't Andressey Passage a public right of way? Surely they cannot close it if it is. What about decent CCTV down there?"
However, Matt Holman answered: "That doesn't mean it can't be closed though. Public Rights of Way can be temporarily or permanently closed if an application is accepted."
He added: "It’s dark, dank, depressing, full of rubbish and graffiti and is one of the most likely places for you to get mugged. It only adds an extra minute or two to get round a different way."
The borough council reminded readers that the closure of Andressey Passage was simply just a proposal and nothing has yet been decided.
Councillor Julia Jessel, deputy leader for town centre and neighbourhoods said it was only considering the idea of closing the alleyway at this stage.
She said: "At the programme board meeting held on the September 4 it was agreed that, with regards to Andressey Passage, further consultation with local businesses, residents, the public and other stakeholders should begin. This stakeholder feedback will inform any future decisions made. There has been no decision made to close Andressey Passage".
What we might be seeing
The proposed programme comprises two phases. Phase one would be made up of defined projects that are currently in the early stages of development. These potentially include include:
- Potential closure of Andressey Passage
- Improvement to areas of the Memorial Gardens and the greening of town centre.
- Possible improvements to current, and the commissioning of new, public art
- The Washlands - this project would see improvements to create a more aesthetically appealing, safe and interesting attraction for residents and tourists.
- Improvements to Burton's Railway Station
- Coopers Square car park - possible changes to traffic flow to reduce the backlog of traffic onto Union Street.
- Manor Croft – reviewing the layout, number of parking bays, signage and length of stay.
- Union Street – exploring solutions for improving the operation of the traffic signal junctions.
- New Street – considering the implementation of a Permanent Traffic Regulation Order. This will supersede the already temporary order in place preventing parking and introducing a limited loading restriction.
The second phase of the programme would take the form of a jointly commissioned consultant supporting the development of a masterplan for the town, with the aim of having the report available during 2018. This masterplan would contain several ambitious initiatives, revitalising the town centre, which will develop and build on its strengths and address its weaknesses.