CAMPAIGNERS have finally claimed victory in a long-running battle to have a popular path opened for use.

The footpath runs around Walton Mere, linking North Street and Vicarage Lane.

It was closed off in 2012 by Mere owners Silverbrook Estates, who put up a 6ft industrial fence in North Street to block access to the path.

Bosses said it was done to protect their land, which had become a regular target for vandals and fly tipping.

But the move sparked fury among residents who fought to have the path re-opened and added to the official map of the area.

Essex County Council sided with residents after they produced piles of evidence showing it had been used as a public right of way for years.

The decision has now been rubberstamped after a consultation period.

Delighted campaigner Rosemarie Palmer, who lives in North Street and is part of the Walton Conservation Group, celebrated the decision.

She said: “This path legally belongs to the people of Walton at last.

“A lot of people have walked the path for many years and it is now rightfully theirs to walk once more."