Says Naomi Smith
It is all too possible to round a corner on horseback and come upon a group of cattle with no prior warning -this WILL result in a horse being badly spooked at best, bolting at worst -it is only a matter of time ........... read more
Bridleway 43 bollard etc at Awbridge, Hampshire
How rider won battle for compensation after horse was injured by parking bollard
Lessons to be learnt by other riders facing similar battles
Says Mike Brownlow
In December 2013 one of our horses was injured when he walked past a low metal drop-down parking bollard that a landowner had placed in the middle of a Right of Way to mark the edge of his land.
The horse cut his leg just above the knee and required 10 stitches. The rider, our daughter, quickly made a tourniquet out of her coat, phoned us to get the vet out and then led the horse home.
We asked the owner for compensation for the vet's bills, and to remove the bollard straight away. The owner said he wasn't liable and the bollard had "permission". However he did offer to change the bollard to make it higher and more visible, which he did by dropping a plastic drain pipe wrapped in warning tape over it.
We checked with the Local Authority and they told us they didn't think the bollard was "dangerous", but couldn't confirm if it had permission. They said they'd go and have a look and decide. We also contacted the BHS who were very helpful and confirmed any obstruction should have permission.
We asked the owners again to pay our vet's bill and to remove the bollard, but they continued to deny liability. We chased the Local Authority for an opinion but they were reluctant to comment.
Having waited 6 months, we set out in a "Letter Before Court Action" to the landowner all the reasons we thought they were liable, and gave them 14 days to pay. They didn't.
We filled in an online "Small Claims" form and set out the reasons for our claim and paid the £80 fee. We confirmed we wanted to charge interest on the vet's fees. We didn't include a request for removal of the bollard in the claim, as we felt this would not be something the judge could rule on in a civil case and we'd get nowhere.
The owners refuted the whole Claim saying they weren't liable.
We had a "Conciliation Hearing" in October 2014, where a judge offered us the opportunity to reach a compromise. We were prepared to accept an apology and a contribution towards the vet's fees, but the landowner still refused to accept any liability, so the Claim had to proceed to a court hearing and we had to pay another £60.
The Small Claim was heard in court in January 2015 and the judge found in our favour and awarded costs and interest against the landowner, for a total figure of £200 more than the original vet's bill.
The lessons we would pass on to others from our experience of this accident are as follows:
We would have been prepared to reach a settlement with the landowners, had they offered an apology, removed the bollard and shown any sort of remorse. Their bullish attitude just made us more determined to see the case through, fortunately to a successful conclusion for us.
We are now in discussion with the Local Authority about removing this and other obstructions on this bridleway. Hopefully our successful case will move things along.
Tony Barnett comments
"We must all congratulate Mike and hope his actions will help those that have met with the same hostilities"
Says Tony Barnett
Mike, your actions should encourage others too many to mention, some have lost their horse through unlawful impediments and have been unable to get a prosecution because of councils pressure and statements that the works were/are lawful to the court, who in turn are agreeable to comit courtroom fraud to protect the council.
I would wish to add to your advice you have given to others, the main starting point is requesting proof of ownership, evidence that lawful consent has been given, that the definitive plan and statement records this evidence which should be made available at council offices on demand, as the accesses are a public amenity, then any amendment shall be seen on these two documents.
As firms and charities are not subject to an FOI, but if the council has accepted claims of ownership, then an FOI should be made to the council for copies of the documents that have/had been disclosed by the claimants to have the lands registerted as freehold, the persons claiming rights to erect the bollard etc on lawful public access, should have them covered by public liability certificate, this you can demand through your insurance company or get the court to make an order for disclosure, there will not be any on a public right of way.
Remember, even if the land is/was freehold, the rights of access do not belong to the farmer/owner of the land, they have no jurisdiction, but are liable for any damage etc to the right of way.
We must all congratulate Mike and hope his actions will help those that have met with the same hostilities, access rights need supporting, my life's involvement in such matters is sought, that is why I joined Horseytalk.net to help others, the legislation can be complex, but, because the matters are civil you need to know how to progress, it can be sorted out without going to court and without compromising your lawful rights.
Mike Brownlow writes to Maureen Comber
"If we win our case for compensation, it should really help persuade HCC to insist the bollards be removed."
Says Mike Brownlow
Many thanks for your continuing help with this.
If we can win our case for compensation for the vet fees, it should really help persuade HCC to insist the bollards be removed.
Maureen Comber writes to Tony Brownlow
"I wish there were more like you."
Says Maureen Comber
Good for you for taking it to the wire. I wish there were more like you.
A good start to 2015 and all the best for the rest of it.
Says Linda Wright
We moved to a Shropshire location a year ago having surveyed the local OS map and noted the significant number of bridleways around the property. Sadly the map appears a total fiction. Scarce any of the bridleways are usable ........... read more