Closure plans for a popular Fishbourne cycle path were unanimously condemned by Chichester City Council at its latest meeting.
The Emperor Way path, which runs alongside the Roman Palace, is due to be shut down by the palace trustees at the end of the year on the grounds that it poses a security risk.
Chichester City Council voted unanimously in favour of a motion tabled by Cllr Michael Woolley declaring that it was ‘gravely concerned’ about the proposal, and was strongly against it.
“We note that it is a well-used, popular and safe route from Chichester to Fishbourne and beyond,” the motion stated.
“We know it is part of the Sustrans National Cycle Route no 2, and that there is no satisfactory safe alternative.”
City mayor Cllr Anne Scicluna said she had cycled and walked this route, as a Chichester resident, to the Roman Palace and to Fishbourne.
“It is a long way round, otherwise – and a dangerous way round,” she told the council.
Cllr Peter Evans, who is also a member of West Sussex County Council, said he had established that the agreement to provide the route was between the palace and Sustrans – and either party could end the agreement after giving notice.
“They say it is limiting their expansion plans, but I think they could find other ways of doing it than by closing the cycle route,” he added.
Cllr Barbara Rees said she could see no possible reason why the cycle path should be a security risk.
“There is no possible way they can claim this,” she declared.
Cllr Woolley said he had been told a window had been broken recently, and that some time ago children were seen playing on a flat roof. This was not a security risk.
Fishbourne Parish Council has also expressed serious concerns about the closure, with a warning that the cycleway is used by hundreds of people every day, including children and young people walking or cycling to and from Fishbourne Primary School, Bishop Luffa School and Chichester College.
The fate of the Emperor Way path has attracted over 140 votes on www.chichester.co.uk, with 89 per cent of people voting in favour of the cycle path remaining at Fishbourne Roman Palace.
n A meeting was due to take place at the palace last night as the Observer went to press when the palace director, Jaane Rowehl, and other representatives of the trustees of Sussex Archaeology were due to explain the plans and listen to public concerns.