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The Governement should sycamore rider-friendly policy !

Application for Bridlepaths on Broxhead Common

Maureen Comber tells the full here to read


Maureen Comber has lost her 11-year fight to preserve the centuries-old bridleway at the edge of the Lithuanian-owned Headley Park Hotel, Bordon, Hampshire...

What is even more insulting is that the Government is ordering Maureen to also pay the costs of the Inquiry

Says Maureen ComberSays Maureen Comber

How to add insult to injury!!

They seem to have conveniently forgotten that we did not ask for another PI and actually suggested a hearing or written reps.

Page 14 of the Statutory Instruments ROW Hearing and Inquiries Procedure (England) Ruleswithin the Guidance on Procedures for considering objections to the Definitive Map and Public Path OrdersNovember 2008it says under Procedure at the Inquiry(3)

"Paragraph (2) shall not preclude the addition in the course of the inquiry of other issues for consideration or preclude any person entitled or permitted to appear at the inquiry from referring to other issues which he considers to be relevant to the Inquiry."

This is quoted on page 2 & 3 of my covering letter, however the Inspectorate have never refuted it or given any guidance that this is not the case!

The Local Government Ombudsman told me that he could not consider these matters and that the Planning Inspectorate were the correct appeal body!

Read the Planning Inspector's Report

E-mail us. Tell us whether you think Maureen Comber should have to pay the costs of the Inquiry for fighting for Riders Rights

Says Maureen Comber

“It seems to me that this decision once again needs Judicially Reviewing because the Inspectors decision is ignoring many recognised criteria for assessing claims both historical and twenty year user.  If it is not challenged then there is no point in anyone engaging in this type of procedure because at the end of the day black is called white and vice versa.”

Says Maureen Comber
Eleven years and at least £62,000 the poorer, not accounting for the numerous hours of research, we are no further forward.

The reason this bridleway link is so important is that it avoids the road past the Headley Park Gun Club and Rifle Range and the dangerous hairpin bends on the C102 past Headley Park if one continues to the end of Cradle Lane. 

You may remember the sequence of events:

  • Judicially reviewed Hampshire County Council on their duty of care to horse riders on the C102 past the Gun Club and On 16th April 1997 MR JUSTICE SEDLEY GRANTED LEAVE FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW SAYING THAT HE THOUGHT THE MATTER COULD BE RESOLVED BY DISCUSSION AND AGREEMENT.
  • Then HCC rushed to Cherie Blair's Chambers and asked for this to be set aside.
  • The application for judicial review was set aside on this day in1997 on the grounds that (although no costs awarded).
    1. The application was not made promptly and was not in any event made within three months of the date on which alleged grounds for it first arose, and there is a good reason why time should be extended;
    2. Having regard to the affidavits of HCC sworn on 9th June and 5th August 1997 there is in any event no arguable case for relief. HCC agreed that they might have such a Duty.
      So no discussion or agreement was able to take place. The solution would have been to clear the overgrowth of vegetation along the old road alignment which was part of this claim and is registered common land. It was suggested by HCC that I lodge a claim for the bridleway.
  • Claim for the bridleway lodged with Hampshire County Council (HCC) 9th October, 2000
  • Refused on the advice of the Officer at the Regulatory Committee meeting of 10th January 2007
  • Appealed under Schedule 14 WCA 23rd January 2007
  • SOS instructed HCC to make the Order for a bridleway on 12th August 2008
  • Order made but then HCC objected to their own Order.!!
  • PI for four days end Sept/October 2009
  • Inspector refused to confirm the Order Dec. 2009
  • Judicially Reviewed 2010.
  • Withdrawn by DEFRA and Inspector's decision quashed
  • PI June/July 2011 for five days
  • Inspector refused to confirm the Order

Please see the message below to my Solicitor.

"It seems to me that this decision once again needs Judicially Reviewing because the Inspectors decision is ignoring many recognised criteria for assessing claims both historical and twenty year user. If it is not challenged then there is no point in anyone engaging in this type of procedure because at the end of the day black is called white and vice versa."

Read the Planning Inspector's Report

“I have to say at first glance this decision is even more perverse than the one we judicially reviewed” 

Says Maureen Comber

The following is of note:

  • In neither decision has he given his opinion on 'the balance of probability' as quoted in para 9.
  • Para 14 accepts that the strongest piece of evidence was the 1787 Survey Map but that is the first and last that we hear of it.
  • This and the numerous other historic maps provided which all showed a route approximately in the same position as the claimed route are thrown out because they do not show the status of the route. But surely this rarely happens. If it did we would not need to do all the research or claims of use but merely say, this says it is a bridleway.!!
  • Para 15 early Ordnance Survey Maps clearly show that a route existed. As we stated the route runs on common land on the Broxhead side so the balance of probability would suggest that the public were making use of it. Again they do not provide evidence of the status but when do they ever?
  • Para 16 The Binsted Inclosure plan of 1857 does show a path over the Order route at the time of the Inclosure leading to the open common land. Again it is noted that this does not show the status of the way. However I would say again that on the balance of probability given the common status of the land the Inspector is wrong to dismiss this evidence.
  • Para 17 The OS map of ;1869 may not show A-B or B-D but it shows other paths in close proximity. Also this is also on common land. Surely the balance of probability is that there is not a reason to suppose there was no use by the public. Why no mention of OS 1910 which clearly shows the whole route?
  • Para 18 accepts the presence of these tracks but again dismisses them for lack of evidence as to status. But again what of the balance of probability?
  • Para 19 says there is nothing in the FA 1910 to indicate which tracks the massive sum of £635 compensation for the land encumbered by public rights. He does not include the indications of the Estate Map and statement at the time of the Sale in 1962 which speak of a "road for all purposes". Neither does he mention the two statements from John Ellis dated 1965, of the 23 tracks on Broxhead Common all used by horse riders. Is this not evidence to tip the balance of probability?
  • Para 21 I am not impressed by the assessment of the evidence from the Commons Commissioner and the reference to being mostly connected with Lindford. There was evidence in my bundle to show that Kingsley was just as relevant
  • Para 25 admits the claimed route is shown in its entirety on some maps and parts on others but none provide evidence of the status. I would say that they add to the balance of probability.

If this evidence was not sufficient even on its own then I suggest that the whole process is doomed from the start and rather like Godmanchester needs to be taken to a higher level. As it is, the normal research criteria which add to the balance of probability are not taken account of.

  • Para 36 The evidence of use which was interrupted by the tree fall has been assessed as fatal to the claim even though the Council had been asked to clear the route. It is not as if the problem had been ignored.
  • Para 43 Again ignores the FA map evidence that part of Baigents Hill where the track is identified, is on what should be common land, instead he says there is no evidence. Why?
  • Para 50 says it has not been possible to subject much of the user evidence to further examination and such as there was should be treated with some degree of caution. Again no mention that if the HCC had adhered to its statutory duty to research the claim within one year of it being lodged instead of seven years later, most of the five people now deceased would have been alive. It is wrong to doubt the integrity of these five people just because they are dead. That would not have been the case previously.
  • Neither is it right to allow the evidence of horse riders being challenged, when not one who had, has been produced.
  • Para 70 - the letter to Mr Menzies from Mr Porter cannot be a consideration since the judgement of Godmanchester. There were no signs to suggest horse riding over Baigents Hill was unacceptable.

I believe that if this decision is left unappealed then BHS, Ramblers and Open Spaces must fold as the normal considerations for the claim have once again been ignored.

What do you think ?
Do you think Maureen should have won ?
So you think she should now apply for a Judicial Review ?
E-mail and tell us your views.

I pine for a more sensible approach to saving our forests

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