CAMPAIGNERS battling plans to transform a historic hall into a children’s holiday centre have accused a police and crime commissioner of committing a planning breach to stop residents using a popular footpath.

Residents of Newby Wiske, near Northallerton, said they had been baffled as to why a police escort had arrived with a group of workmen last Thursday to erect a short length of fence beside the main gate to the Newby Wiske Hall.

They said it was clear the purpose of the new fence was to block public access to the permissive footpath around the grounds of the former North Yorkshire Police headquarters, which is the subject of an application to North Yorkshire County Council to be made a public footpath.

Children’s holiday’s firm PGL, which last year received planning permission to create a 550-bed centre featuring an array of outdoor activities in the village, has propose the removal of access to the path that has been in constant documented use for several decades.

The row over the permissive footpath is the latest in a battle which has seen the commissioner’s ambition to sell off the grade II listed property delayed by years.

Newby Wiske Action Group (NWAG) said planning consultants had advised the fence work should have been subject of an application for planning consent and listed building consent and had submitted a complaint to Hambleton District Council alleging the commissioner had committed a planning breach.

A NWAG spokesman questioned whether the police escort had been a good use of taxpayers’ money just weeks after the commissioner had asked for the maximum increase in the police council tax demand the government would allow.

He added: “If a retrospective application for consent is made, it is likely to meet with strong objections from the 117 local residents who recently responded to a survey and say that they use the footpath.

“Many of the users are elderly or suffer from disability.

“Yet again this displays the arrogance with which the commissioner and her staff treat the public of York and North Yorkshire.”

The campaigners raised their concerns with the commissioner’s chief executive hours after the workmen had erected the fence, but they have received no response.

The commissioner’s office failed to respond to requests for a response to the claims by the time of going to press.