PEOPLE power has won the day in Urchfont, after the village primary’s governors have stopped visitors being allowed to walk through the school grounds at any time.

The school challenged a decision that would have turned a path through the grounds, which for years people had used outside lesson times to get to the village recreation field, into a Public Right Of Way, leading parents and governors to fear for the children’s safety.

Urchfont School headteacher Carol Talbot said it had been a “gruelling process”, arguing against a decision first called for by Urchfont Parish Council and then approved by Wiltshire Council.

She said: “Our major concern was that members of the public would be able to walk through our school all day.”

After the plan was approved the school appealed, and finally school governors took on Wiltshire Council barristers at a three-day public hearing to argue that the path should not be open while children are learning. The school represented itself to save legal fees, estimated to be the equivalent of a teaching assistant’s salary.

Chairman of governors Anya Watson said: “It does show that you can take on large authorities and turn decisions around. However it has been very stressful and taken one person in particular days and days to put our case together.

“Many of my friends were supportive of the footpath but we never discussed it.

“There were some unkind things said about the school not co-operating but that was not the parish council. The barrister from Wiltshire Council was over-zealous so I think the other side thought they won on the day.”

The argument started when Urchfont Parish Council wanted to make the route from Top Green to the recreation field a public footpath, rather than the school giving permission for it to be used by villagers but retaining the right to close it during school hours.

The final decision went to the Secretary of State. His inspector Martin Elliott ruled that footpath should remain shut to the public during school time.

81 people from the village wrote in opposition and the inspector confirmed that the school would not have to allow constant use of its premises to allow people to use the foot path.

Graham Day chairman of Urchfont Parish Council said: “We acknowledge and accept the decision. We will be taking no further action and would like to thank all the residents who took part in the process.”

The end to the battle means building work can begin at the village school to create three extra classrooms and improved disabled access, as their planning permission said work could not start until the footpath issue was settled.

Bridget Wayman, cabinet member for Highways, said: “We made an order for this path to be officially recognised as a public footpath. Part of the process involves public examination of the evidence, and where objections are received, the conflicting evidence is considered by the Secretary of State, often by holding a public inquiry.

“We are satisfied the process was followed correctly and we accept the Secretary of State’s decision.”