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Saturday, December 12, 1998 Published at 15:19 GMT


Ramblers 'scum of the earth'

Ramblers: Blocking the footpath is "outrageous"

What's your opinion of Nicholas van Hoogstraten's comments? Does he have a point? Does rambling equal trespassing?

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A millionaire landowner who is refusing public access to a footpath through his estate has branded ramblers "the absolute scum of the earth".

BBC Correspondent Peter Gould: Some land-owners choose to see rambling as trespassing
Property developer Nicholas van Hoogstraten is building a mansion at High Cross Estate, East Sussex, and says the path is nothing more than a track used by estate workers.

The Ramblers' Association has decided to take legal action against Mr van Hoogstraten "on behalf of the public who expect to be able to use public rights of way without fear of being abused, threatened or hindered".

A spokesman said: "There are too many landowners like Mr Van Hoogstraten who illegally block footpaths."

[ image: Nicholas van Hoogstraten:
Nicholas van Hoogstraten: "They're scavengers"
Speaking to BBC News, Mr van Hoogstraten described their claims as "a load of nonsense".

"This is my land and I shall do as I please with it. They've got no rights whatsoever," he said.

He then launched an attack on the ramblers' claim to be protecting ancient rights of way.

"Ramblers and those types of people are not caretaking anything.

Nicholas van Hoogstraten: "I've been picked on by these disgusting people"
"They're scavengers. The absolute scum of the earth," he said of a group of people more usually typified as genteel, quiet and nature-loving.

"They don't have a stake in society, they don't own anything and they want to go rambling - or trespassing if you like - on other people's land and property," he added.

[ image: Mansion building at the High Cross Estate]
Mansion building at the High Cross Estate
East Sussex County Council said it was aware that Mr van Hoogstraten is blocking the footpath, but that it cannot afford to prosecute, even though he has already built a barn over part of the path.

President of the Ramblers' Association Andrew Bennett MP described Mr van Hoogstraten's stance as "outrageous".

He said that If the county council failed to act, it would be "a temptation for all other landowners to say: 'We will close our footpaths'."

Send us your opinions on Nicholas van Hoogstraten's comments and on rambling in general.

Click here to send us your views.

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