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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 15:16 GMT
Campaigner loses path battle
A country pathway
Ramblers have fought for better countryside access
The High Court has backed a council's decision to divert a country path around obstructions deliberately put in place by a landowner.

The judge rejected a challenge by ramblers who accused East Sussex County Council of a failing to remove the obstructions.

Rarebargain Ltd, which owns the land at Framfield, near Uckfield, has been fined 86,350 but refuses to remove obstacles - including a line of industrial refrigerators.

Since the council had failed to force the landowner to clear the path, Mr Justice Grigson decided it would be better to divert it instead.

Fight continues

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and chairman of the Ramblers' Association, was given leave to take her case to the Court of Appeal.

After the verdict she said: "The battle continues. If the council thinks this is the end of the matter, it must think again."

Rarebargain Ltd, a company linked to multi-millionaire Nicholas van Hoogstraten, had been prosecuted four times in two years by the Ramblers' Association.

Lewes Magistrates had imposed fines totalling 86,350, plus 6,900 costs, and ordered the removal of obstructions.

Practical decision

The fines were never paid and Rarebargain put forward diversion proposals which were taken up by the council.

Ms Ashbrook argued that the council had failed in its legal duty to protect the public's right to use the footpath "in the face of flagrant obstruction".

However Mr Justice Grigson said: "I cannot see how that decision can be impugned.

"It was reasonable on a purely practical level, albeit that it appeared to condone flagrant and deliberate obstruction of the footpath."

The judge made no order for costs against Ms Ashbrook.

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See also:

11 Mar 02 | England
Court delays decision on path
07 Dec 01 | England
Burgled couple lose footpath fight
12 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Right to roam maps unveiled
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