The most expensive gates in Lincolnshire?
A ONE-day public enquiry to solve a dispute over a possible public right of way could cost the taxpayer up to £10,000.
And it is thought it may well come to that if an agreement cannot be reached over controversial railings and a gate put up by a property owner in Caistor.
Jonathon Holt has defended his decision to erect them across a footpath linking Buttermarket and Plough Hill, which has caused outcry from residents and Caistor Town Council to request removal.
Mr Holt, who owns flats on the side of the alleyway, said: "Before putting the railings up, I spoke to planners. I was told I did not need planning permission. Then I spoke to Lincolnshire Highways who said the path was not a public right of way. I did it to primarily stop antisocial behaviour.
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"I thought I would go for it as a cost-effective way of stopping antisocial behaviour. And it has worked, antisocial behaviour has stopped in that locality."
But it has now emerged that more research needs to be carried out to determine whether or not it is a right of way and Mr Holt has come to an agreement with Lincolnshire County Council's Highways department to remove the gates, but leave up the mountings and railings, so that the gates could be re-installed easily and cost-effectively should they prove needed.
However, the Town Council wants the whole structure removed.
During the public participation part of its monthly meeting in Caistor, nearby property owner Muriel Smith wanted to know what action was being taken.
Chairman and town mayor John Burns-Salmond, pictured, answered: "The town council's view is that the whole thing should be taken down. If, then, antisocial behaviour occurs, put it back, with closure of the path in hours to be determined. The county council is now dealing with the issue."
Mrs Smith asked why the county council is not having a public inquiry, and was told by the mayor that it was "still a possibility".
Mr Holt told the Telegraph that he was currently in talks with Highways to resolve the issue, meaning elderly Caistor residents could avoid the stress of speaking at a public inquiry.
Mr Burns-Salmond told the Telegraph: "The town council has made it quite clear we will agree to a gating order if the whole structure is removed and the alleyway is put back to its original state, and if antisocial behaviour then returns and cannot be dealt with by any other means."
Chris Miller, Lincolnshire County Council's countryside access manager, said: "We need to obtain sufficient evidence to determine whether the alley is a public right of way or not. We understand the reason for it being gated, but this brought the public use of it into question.
"It is not recorded as a right of way, but has been used as such since Caistor was rebuilt after the Great Fire, in 1681. Objections to this status came from the nearby householders, including Mr Holt.
"We are expecting to talk to them and hope that they will withdraw their objections. If that happens, we at the county council will manage the route. But I feel that the dispute will almost certainly end in a public inquiry in the town hall. A one-day enquiry would cost between £8,000 and £10,000."