DOG WALKERS are among those seeking to overturn the fencing off of a popular natural area in Bognor Regis.
The field, on the boundary with Felpham, has been blocked by its owner to everyone at all three accesses.
Those affected have turned to West Sussex County Council to establish the routes across the privately-owned field as public rights of way.
One of them, David Meagher, said: “To do that, we need 20 people who have been using these paths for more than 20 years.
“We don’t have to show they have been used for that period continuously – just that they have been open for use.
“I am confident we can do that. We believe the field has been used by the public for over 40 years.
But it is an onerous process to go through. There are 20 questions on the form that need to be answered.”
From the Bognor Regis side, the field has been reached across a footbridge over the Aldingbourne Rife which was accessed along a grassed stretch of land from the northern end of Brooks Lane.
One of the field’s neighbours, Rachel Searle, said children from the Glenwood estate often used the paths to reach Downview Primary School and Felpham Community College.
“It’s a nice way for children to get to school but the field is also an important part of the Bognor Regis area,” she said.
“It’s an open site between two built-up areas and, once the field has gone, it has gone. There is a right to roam by law and I would hope these paths are covered by that.”
The paths had been open for public use during her time in the Bognor Regis area from 1986, she said.
The field is known to have been used for growing hay for at least 15 years. One of the paths went straight across from the footbridge to reach Downview School, after crossing another field, and another diagonally to Felpham Community College and the Arun Leisure Centre.
The footbridge was blocked without warning earlier this month with safety fencing either side of the rife. The other two access points have been similarly fenced off.
Mr Meagher said: “This site is listed in Arun District Council’s land use blueprint as having biodiversity potential.
“We know there are water voles in the rife and birds such as marsh warblers live there as well.
“That field is where three communities can meet to go from South Bersted to Bognor Regis and from Bognor Regis to Felpham.
“It’s not just dog walkers who used it. It was enjoyed by anyone who wanted to be in the open air close to the town and look at the South Downs.
“It was a nice gentle walk for people who have mobility problems.”