Broughshane residents left 'disappointed' after right of way fight fails
Residents of a Co Antrim village have been left bitterly disappointed after their local council refused to assert an old mill path as a right of way.
More than 100 residents had written to Ballymena Borough Council calling for the historic path in Broughshane to be protected after it was blocked by the new owner of the Raceview Mill.
The path was once used by mill workers on their way to work and linked the Braid River at Knockan Bridge to the village.
When the row erupted, the mill's new owner Roy McKeown told the Belfast Telegraph that he fully supported the provision of a public path through the proposed £1m mill development, but following a different route. Instead, he wanted to create a new path through the development that could be locked at night by residents.
Ballymena council received 120 submissions of evidence relating to whether or not the path could be regarded as a right of way, but after receiving a legal opinion, members decided not to assert the Broughshane pathway as a public right of way. Resident Ken Gault, whose Save the Back Avenue in Broughshane campaign page on Facebook attracted hundreds of likes from people living as far away as Australia and Canada, said it was a shame to learn that councillors weren't stepping in to protect the path.
"People are very, very disappointed. It's only a little path of several hundred metres long but when you take it in the context that this is happening all over the place and these paths are being lost for ever, that makes it more disappointing," he said.
"The new path will go in through the mill complex and, bearing in mind that it will be closed in the evening time, the path won't be open for anybody who wants to go in casually for a walk.
"A 100-year-old tree at the back of my house has already been cut down and the path is destroyed from track vehicles being driven up and down.
"It's very, very annoying that people can't get out and enjoy the open countryside as much as they would like to."
The mill has been owned by Patton's since the 1980s but was bought by Mr McKeown after the company went into liquidation.
Mr Gault said the path was 3-4ft wide and had been in existence since the 1800s when it was part of a network of paths.
Residents welcome the plans to redevelop the mill and the regeneration it will bring to the village, but are outraged that a path which was used daily has been closed, he added.
After buying the mill from the liquidated Patton's company, Roy McKeown is restoring it to create a mixed-use development which he says will draw tourists to Broughshane, including a "village within a village" featuring a mixture of housing, enterprise units and hospitality. The first phase would be to build new workspace for local enterprises, designed in a style similar to the mill buildings. A later phase could see the creation of hotel rooms overlooking the river and the transformation of the main building into a restaurant, remodelling the old water tower into a glass tower with views of Slemish.