Campaigners fighting to reopen the Martholme Viaduct footpath in Great Harwood have been warned they have no legal basis or county council backing.
The Observer reported earlier this month how an online petition had been set up to open the 800m stretch of disused railway line which links the town with Read.
So far more than 1,000 people have signed the petition. The path was closed in 2001 due to the foot and mouth outbreak and never reopened.
Ward and county councillor Gareth Molineux said he has investigated the legalities thoroughly and warned campaigners that ‘all avenues have been exhausted’ to reopen the land to public use.
He told a recent public meeting: “There’s precedent that does allow you to designate a public footpath across someone’s property but there’s a burden of proof that’s required. You have to show 20 years continual use of that path being used.
“When the evidence was put forward in 2005 it was sporadic to say the least. They couldn’t show a full 20 years of use.
“All the avenues have now been exhausted to make that land a public footpath unless the landowner is willing to grant access to that land.”
Coun Molineux said if county council finances were ‘a bit better’ they could use statutory powers to compulsorily purchase the land.
He told the meeting: “Based on evidence put forward in the past and the unprecedented costs it would put on the county – especially with cuts – the council will in no way support a compulsory purchase of that land.
“It could cost a few hundred thousand pounds in compensation to do it.
“I will not be supporting any campaign to reopen Martholme Viaduct unless new evidence that is substantial is brought forward.”