RESIDENTS are dismayed after a battle to keep a long-used footpath in Hadleigh was lost.

A two-day public inquiry was held last month into whether the footpath, between the disused Crown pub and the library, linking London Road and the High Street, could be recognised on a map.

Residents insisted the path had been used regularly by the public for seven decades and Essex County Council agreed – making the route an official right of way.

But Castle Point Council insisted the strip of land was crucial to its £60million regeneration of Hadleigh.

Yesterday, Government inspector Peter Millman ruled the route would be closed, saying it wasn’t clear how frequently it had been used between 1974 and 1994.

Roy Brackin, of Solbys Lane, Hadleigh, had applied for official recognition and slammed Castle Point Council’s stance on the route.

He said: “The actions of the council officers are quite simply deplorable. They have succeeded in depriving the community of a path that has been recognised by all as a public right of way in my lifetime.

“I will think about this for a while now and there are a number of things I am not sure about, but what are we supposed to do? We can’t fight this. We can’t afford to, so what should we do?”

Castle Point Council will now create “a tree-lined boulevard” at the site.

David Marchant, chief executive of Castle Point Council, said: “The decision is helpful as it will assist in getting on with plans to take forward the regeneration of Hadleigh town centre.”

The dispute began when the path was blocked off in 2011, as work began on a Morrisons supermarket.

Residents expected it to reopen after the store was built, but Castle Point Council kept it closed.

An Essex County Council legal services spokesman said theywere able to appeal, but hadn’t decided if they would do.

He said: “The council is usually content to rely on the inspector’s findings. A decision to challenge would need to be made in the next fewweeks.”