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Society celebrates 'milestone' ruling

Posted 11 April 2012
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Society celebrates 'milestone' ruling
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For horse riders who love to put on their equestrian clothing and hit the bridleways of Britain, the listing of what had hitherto been classed as a public footpath in Northumberland as a bridleway was great news when it happened in 2009.

But the route in question - Capheaton bridleway 11 - faced a problem. Despite the reclassification of the route, a cattle grid across it remained in place. Horse-riders, walkers and cyclists were forced to take a detour via a neighbouring field.

However, the situation has changed thanks to the determined campaigning work of Alan Kind, editor of Byway and Bridleway, which is the journal of the Byways and Bridleways Trust.

A regular user of the route, he sought to serve a statutory notice on Northumberland County Council to have the grid removed.

But the task was far from easy as first Newcastle Justices and then the city's Crown Court found against Mr Kind.

However, with the backing of his own organisation, British Horse Society, the Open Spaces Society (OSS) and other interested parties, the matter was appealed to the High Court, which ruled that the county council could not block the whole bridleway.

Commenting on the verdict, OSS general secretary Kate Ashbrook said: "This is a milestone judgment. A cattle-grid across a path prevents walkers and riders from using that route and we are delighted that the court has ruled that an unofficial bypass will not suffice."

The significance of the decision will go further than simply making it easier to enjoy one Northumberland bridleway on horseback. Mr Kind explained that while the right to serve notice on the council was passed by Parliament a decade ago, the authority told him it wanted the power to be able to authorise gates and stiles on paths whenever it saw fit.

Speaking of such a prospect, he added: "That really would be a black day for the countryside and the path-using public."

This month sees the 80th anniversary of the Great Kinder Trespass, when events in Derbyshire will reflect on how much progress has been made in enabling those who enjoy the great outdoors to access such places. But the Capheaton bridleway case may act as a reminder that the battle was not completely won in 1932 and has been going on ever since.