Residents say they are 'stressed and angry' after a footpath was closed to the public without warning.

The footpath along the side of All Saints School in Wyke Regis, connecting Rylands Lane with Sunnyside Road, has been locked off since the beginning of last week, and opened only for a few hours a day for the use of pupils arriving at and leaving the school.

Seventy-four-year-old Rita Price has lived on Rylands Lane for close to forty years, and said she was shocked to find the gate locked two weeks ago when she went to use the path. "I'm feeling stressed and angry," Mrs Price told the Echo.

"The path has always been open, for as long as we've lived here," she said. "They only used to close it one day a year.

"It's disgusting when people have to go all the way round the main road just to go to the doctors or the shops," she added. "There are so many elderly people who use the path."

Mrs Price's son Elliott, aged 38, agreed. "It's inconvenient for the whole of Wyke," said Mr Price, who lives with his mother on Rylands Lane. He noted that the closure of the path was especially irksome for elderly people on mobility scooters, and that he had even seen a man forced to lift his pushchair over the locked gate.

"I've lived here for 38 years and it's always been a right of way," he said. "It's peeving me that they've closed it without warning."

Kate Wheller, who represents the area on the borough council, said the path had been used since long before the school was built, and that her husband had used it as a small boy. "It's always been a passageway through," she said.

Cllr Wheller voiced suspicions that a recent Ofsted inspection had urged All Saints School to close the path in the interests of security, in which case, she said, it would be better to erect fencing along the length of one side of the path and keep it open.

She urged the school to be open to discussions on the matter given the importance attached to the path by the local community. "It's really important that people have access to the whole of the village," she said. "There are an awful lot of elderly people in Wyke. This closure is cutting people off, it's isolating them from their friends."

Dorset County Council noted that the path was a permissive route rather than a public right of way, and that its closure was therefore at the discretion of the site owner, All Saints School; the school declined to comment.