09:14, September 05 348 0 theguardian.com

2017-09-05 09:14:03
Planning dispute over Somerset path resolved after nearly 60 years

A planning dispute going back almost 60 years over a rutted country lane deep in Somerset has finally been resolved.

After a battle believed to be one of the longest in British legal history, the lane outside a cottage once occupied by siblings Archie and Ivy Peppard will be removed as a right of way from the official map.

Sadly the Peppards, who launched the fight in 1959 when they claimed they were besieged by walkers traipsing past their front door, did not live long enough to witness the victory.

The dispute went all the way to the high court before a planning inspector agreed that the lane in High Ham was not historically a public right of way.

A neighbour who took up the dispute after the siblings’ deaths, Marlene Masters, 80, said it had been a David and Goliath fight.

She said: “There is nothing scenic about it, it is a muddy track with a high hedge on one side and woods on the other.”

The cottage was built in 1840 by a forefather of the Peppards. In 1959 the path was listed as a public right of way. They began officially contesting the footpath in 1973.

At one point Archie Peppard built a gate to keep walkers out but was taken to county court and told to remove it.

Finally a planning inspector, Alan Beckett, ruled in favour of the footpath being removed from the official maps. He said 18th-century documents did “not provide evidence of the reputation of the route as a public right of way”.

As well as farming the land, Archie Peppard was a keen horseman and kept hounds, which would drink from a duck pond in the middle of the path. He was often hired for wedding parties to drive the married couple around the village in a horsedrawn cart.

Ivy Peppard’s son, Rodney, 56, works as a farmer and still keeps a smallholding on the land, as well as grazing animals on the Somerset Levels.

A spokesman for Somerset county council said: “The order to delete the public footpath from the definitive map and statement has now been confirmed by the secretary of state, and we will be publishing formal notice of this in the local press shortly.

“We will be updating our records in the coming days to show that the route is no longer recorded as a right of way. The Ordnance Survey will also be informed of the change in order that they can update their mapping.”

A definitive map is a legal document that must be produced and kept up to date by every county council or unitary authority in England and Wales (except the inner London boroughs). It should show every right of way in an authority’s area and the nature of the rights over the paths shown.