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Saving our forests is seeing the wood for the trees

Thank you for your 40-year fight for bridleway

40-year fight for bridleway

Maureen Comber thrown out of Tory Party and branded a trouble-maker
because of her 40-year fight
to get her local Council to fulfil their statutory duty and repair a bridlepath

"If you do vote to terminate my membership, while David Cameron is talking about localism and the Big Society, you will be making me a martyr and putting me alongside the likes of Jeffery Archer, Jonathan Aitken and David Mellor who did more harm to the Tory Party than fight for a bridlepath."

Read in full Maureen's Statement to the
East Hampshire Conservative Association, which she made on Friday 25th March 2011

The story of Maureen Comberís second 40-year fight for ridersí rights.

Maureenís first battle was to persuade Hampshire County Council to do their statutory duty and repair just 250 yards of byway. The byway has at last just been repaired and opened to horse riders on 15th May 2011. The fight continues however to get a permanent TRO to prevent the damage which 4WD's cause on this fragile old lane and which has prevented the enjoyment by other non-motorised users during the last 40 years.


Maureenís second battle is to regain public rights of access to the whole of Broxhead Common, Hampshire.

Broxhead Common is owned by the Ministry of Defence on the west side of the B3004 while the east side is privately owned.

The Commons Registration Act 1965 required all commons, village greens and open spaces to be registered

The Ministry of Defence had bought the common west of the B3004 in the early 1900's but in 1965 after some initial dissent they had no choice but to agree that the common was public open space. This was because soon after they purchased it the Commoners at that time were very concerned at the interference with their grazing rights by the exercise of Cavalry and heavy guns and artillery on the common and appealed for help to the Headley Parish Council. Various incidents are recorded of fence cutting and encroachments, which culminated in a confrontation between the Military Authorities and the Commoners on Saturday afternoon 16th November 1907. The upshot was that the MOD apologised to the commoners and admitted that they had made a mistake and this was not freehold property.

However the landowner on the east side objected to the registration of his land. The previous owner a Mr Sefton Myers had fenced it in without authorisation, 80 acres of the most scarce and valuable wildlife habitat of commonland. This was vigorously fought by the Broxhead Commoners Association under the leadership of John Ellis who was the local Miller and Chairman of Headley Parish Council

Twice the matter was referred to Public Inquiries with the Commons Commissioners

Twice the row reached the High Courts.

Eventually it reached the Court of Appeal in 1978 where the matter was frustrated by a Consent Order in which the landowner and Hampshire County Council came to an agreement.

The agreement was that the Hampshire County Council would support any application to the Secretary of State to keep the fences around the illegally fenced 80 acres if he would rent them the other 101 acres for an SSSI and incidental use by the public for 'air and exercise'. Also 5 acres of the common would be turned into a playing fields for the village of Lindford at a peppercorn rent.

But the question of ridersí rights and the fact that the fences obstructed many of the paths which they used to ride, was left hanging in the air. It was also complicated by the 2nd Review of the Definitive Map 1965 which would leave the common with no legal access for horse riders from the north side of the common and only one footpath from that side. That was FP 54 Parish of Headley.

The story of Maureen's 20 year struggle to get that footpath upgraded to bridleway began in the early 1970's and was the beginning of a long voyage of learning, research and discovery with regard to the law and practice of rights of way.

As for the common and the illegally fenced 80 acres, that is a battle which Maureen Comber is still struggling to resolve Ė 48-years, nearly half a century after the battle began and will be the subject of another story at a later date, but it is safe to say that the story begins with her membership of the local bridleways group called at the time The Headley and District Bridleways Protection Group.

Read Maureenís story.

It reveals in detail the time-wasting, buck-passing nonsense that passes for local government in this country.

It shows the toe-curling, mind-numbing lengths Councillors and Council officials will go to avoid taking decisions and getting the job done

It proves the almost inexaustable stamina, determination and absolute dedication needed by members of the public who take on local authorities.

It also shows what is likely to happen to David Cameron's Big Society when it hits the rocks of local government reality.

Do you think the Tory Party should have thrown Maureen out of the Party?

Vote Yes - Vote No

E-mail us. Tell us what you think.

On Friday March 25 the Conservative Party are planning to say thank you a 73-year-old mother of two, grand-mother of seven, who has just won an unbelievable non-stop 40-year fight to persuade her local Council to carry out their statutory duty and repair a mere 250-yard stretch of bridleway – by kicking her out of the Party for being a troublemaker.

But after hundreds of meetings, thousands of letters and e-mails, 12 local Council elections, three changes of Members of Parliament and no end of firm promises of action, the fight goes on.

For Maureen, who even became a local Councillor to help fight her campaign, has just been told by East Hampshire District Council that even though the newly-repaired Cradle Lane has been officially opened for walkers and cyclists still, even after 40-years, no date has been set for it to re-open to riders.

40-year fight for bridleway

Says Maureen, who has kept all the notes and letters and files of her struggle against the bureaucrats, "This clearly illustrates how local people are still being steamrollered by large bureaucracies against the very best intentions of the coalition government."


It is probably the longest, most courageous fight against a local authority ever undertaken on behalf of the equestrian community in this country.


THE MOTION TO TERMINATE MAUREEN COMBER'S MEMBERSHIP OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY in accordance with paragraph 3.5 of the Rules of the East Hampshire Conservative Association will be debated


Tributes to Maureen Comber

Click here to read Maureen's Biography

Says Sharon Holt
"Just typical........people in authority not listening to us horsey folk. Let them ride on the road and risk their lives everyday and see how quick they respond then!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "

Says Quita
What prats! Indeed, the matter will no doubt blow into a far bigger thing now, eh? Good luck!

Says Barbara Clarke, a colleague of Maureen’s
on British Horse Society Access Committee

The Conservative Party could do with more people who are the sort of troublemakers like Maureen who works very hard on behalf of all horse lovers and other country lovers. Please do not undermine the efforts of those who work, largely as volunteers to make this country worth living in.

Says Bob
Speaking as someone who was finally - and painfully - ‘Blaired’ from my long clung-to Labour Party roots before being ‘Clegged’ from more recent ‘Lib-Dem’ leanings, I cannot but sympathise with what appears to be the far more personalised and cruel treatment you’ve received from your Tory “comrades”.

What I especially cannot get over is that they’ve chosen this of all matters about which to ‘punish’ you…

Dear God, what – compared with you - do any of these people know about horsey matters? Let alone the fact that none of them, as far as I can see, has any record whatsoever of defending the purpose and values of bridle paths!

As for targeting their own feet….? I just hope and pray that they may cop the sort of media backlash their stupidity warrants….?

What you’ve done and said has been “Right”: what they’ve said has been “Wrong.”

Take a good, well-earned rest ….. and let them pay the consequences!

Very best wishes

Says Peter
I was sorry to read of the outcome.. You put up a good fight.

It is sad that the current decision making arrangements in Local Government has encouraged a bullying style in those elected as leaders and executive members. As a result any words that are considered at variance with those of the power base causes a negative reaction.In the absence of full scrutiny by committee (protected by protocol) review/examination is not possible.

I still expect a major breakdown/abuse of the current arrangements and I am only surprised that one has not occurred. Underperformance and bad decision making are masked as result.

Best wishes

Says Mary
I am so sorry. I hope that the meeting was not too stressful. Thank you very much for all you have done for us over the last four years. It has been much appreciated.

Very best wishes

Says Roy
In am sorry to have received the news that you lost the motion at tonight's meeting and wish to thank you for all that you have done on behalf of the community since you were elected.

I feel that you have been unfairly treated; the punishment does not fit the crime.

Perhaps you were in a hole following previous encounters and kept on digging when you should have paused for thought. That let the cabal of enemies develop and you were completely out-gunned.

With all best wishes for the future.

I pine for a more sensible approach to saving our forests

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