Trouble at the mill

As a property developer, Henry Pelly must surely know the law on public paths.  Yet he bought Luccombe Mill at Bratton, near Westbury in Wiltshire, apparently unaware that local people had, for decades, been enjoying the Watercress Walk which runs across his land.

The path runs between grid references ST 921520 and 922518, both on the Imber Road south-east of Bratton village, on land owned by Henry Pelly and Wessex Water.

Private notices 
Mr Pelly bought the mill last August.  When he put up private notices and barbed wire across the stiles, the local people put in an application to Wiltshire Council to add the path to the definitive map.  They have 78 witness statements to prove that the path has been walked continuously without challenge for more than 30 years, so there is a powerful case that this is already a public highway.  It is on Wiltshire Council’s register of definitive map applications here.

bratton-fp-trevor-porter

Katherine Beaumont and Liz and Phil Workman at the entrance to the footpath. Photo: Trevor Porter

One of the witnesses, Katherine Beaumont, sent Mr Pelly a letter of welcome.  He replied rather patronisingly that ‘There are many wonderful walks in this area clearly shown on the OS map and as a local I am sure you are aware of the alternative Wessex Water route to the spring—and not through our garden.’  It is tosh to claim the Watercress Way is through his garden, it runs through woodland some distance away, with hardly a view of the house.

Long use
The previous owner of the mill, Mary Seymour, deposited a statement in December 2015 under section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 declaring there were no public paths on her land.  However it is hard to believe that Mr Pelly bought the mill without knowing that people had long used the path and that the chances are that it is already a public highway.

I was on Radio Wiltshire this morning for the Open Spaces Society explaining that, provided there is good evidence of use for more than 20 years, the path is a highway and people have a right to continue using it.  I hope Wiltshire Council will swiftly determine the application so that this much-loved path is recorded, reopened and restored to the people.

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About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Obstructed path, Public paths, walking and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Trouble at the mill

  1. beckydeans says:

    Good luck to the residents. In my experience the odds seem to be stacked up in favour of the land owner, but I hope this doesn’t happen in this case.

  2. Andy says:

    The concept of ‘land ownership’ needs to be redefined somewhat – how can anyone make a claim that under all circumstances they actually OWN part of the earth’s surface, to do what they like with; they may be ‘custodians’ under a set of restrictions, to care for it for any/all future generations – but ‘own’ it – no…

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