Countryside: the Right to RoamKeith
Countryside: the Right to Roam
The Intrusive Footpaths Campaign (IFC) was set up to fight for property owners after a number of cases where families were unable to stop walkers going through their property.
Anne Just, 56, of Dale Abbey, Derbys, has been fighting applications by horse riders to put a bridleway through a closed yard outside her home since 1997, even though there is no right of way through the farmyard.
The riders claim they have a right of way because a few were allowed through the farm in the past. But the working farm cannot continue with the number of people riding through.
Mrs Just said the case was a “factor” in her father-in-law’s suicide because he felt guilty for allowing riders through the farmyard initially and was scared the family would have to give up the farm.
“My husband’s father did let them through in the past and it played on his mind. He just wanted us to carry on farming.”
Marlene Masters, another farmer’s wife with no legal training, has been fighting claims of “non-existent” footpaths through her land and others in Somerset for almost 20 years.
She said the council accused her next door neighbour Simon Watts of “ploughing up a public highway” in his own cornfield – even though none existed.
She said the stress was a “major contributory factor” in his suicide.
Colin Ray, who started the IFC campaign 18 months ago, said there are many more similar cases of footpaths going through farmyards, gardens and even houses, with people made ill with stress.
He blamed right to roam legislation that is being used to claim there is a right of way through private homes and gardens because there is an “ancient footpath” or “evidence of regular use”.
However he claims private farmyards and gardens should be exempt and is holding meetings with the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to try and get an exemption added to the draft Deregulation Bill.
Richard Connaughton, another campaigner, said that the “lost ways scam” claiming ancient footpaths exist and “cheaters’ charter” claiming there is regular use of a path through private land are “destroying lives”.
He pointed out that applications for new paths are also costing councils money and called for regulations to be tightened to ensure private land is protected.
“The countryside is beginning to get bored and upset by the amount it is being prevailed upon. People are saying enough is enough.”
But Janet Davis of the Ramblers said the Deregulation Bill has already got measures in it to make it easier for councils to offer alternative paths to those claimed through private land.
She said farmers, landowners and ramblers have been working for years to reach a consensus on the issue to ensure there are fewer confrontational cases.
Read what the Government say on their own website https://www.gov.uk/right-of-way-open-access-land/overview