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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June, 2004, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Madonna wins part ban on walkers
Madonna and her house
The Agency is preparing for new legislation
Pop star Madonna has partly won her bid to prevent ramblers from walking across most of her 9m country estate.

The singer claimed 142 hectares of land at Ashcombe House, on the Wiltshire/Dorset borders, had been wrongly classified as "open country".

She and husband Guy Ritchie said at a public inquiry last month their human rights would be infringed.

A ruling by the Planning Inspectorate said the public would not have access to more than half of the land.

It means walkers will not be able to go within sight of the couple's home, sitting in the estate's grounds.

The Countryside Agency, which is mapping parts of England to implement a new Rights of Way Act, had classified the land as "downland".

Under the new law, this gives the public the right to access.

"Beautiful downland"

The Act states that the public can walk across any land appearing on the final map as open country - mountain, moor, heath or down - or registered common land.

But Mr and Mrs G Ritchie, as they were listed in legal papers related to the case, appealed against the Agency's findings.

The Countryside Agency chose not to contest six of the 17 parcels of land originally in question.

The inquiry examined the remaining 11 parcels, covering 120 hectares, and the Inspectorate ruled that two - a total of 54 hectares - should be mapped as open country.

A Countryside Agency spokeswoman said: "The appeals process gives people the chance to make sure we get the mapping process right - and we want to make sure the mapping is right."

Despite the Inspectorate's decision, The Ramblers Association said it was pleased with the result.

"The national walking charity is delighted that half of the land contested at the public inquiry has been classed as open country and that walkers will have access to 54 hectares of beautiful downland," the group said in a statement.

A spokesman for Madonna and Mr Ritchie said the couple would not be commenting on the result of the inquiry.

The BBC's David Sillito
"Ramblers consider today's result a victory"

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