News: May 2012

Date posted: 17/05/12


We all know the saying that the law is an ass and every so often a case comes along that confirms it. In this case, even the Judge agreed as he clearly stated that he could see no  benefit to anybody in settling the case, but felt that he could only uphold the law as written.

The case was brought against Northumberland County Council by a well known rights of way campaigner. He objected, on a point of law, to the Council granting consent for a cattle grid on a bridle way. The cattle grid had been in situ for decades, with associated gate, and there was no issue over access being restricted or denied. The access had originally been a footpath, but had been upgraded to bridleway status in the late 90s.

Having been knocked back by the Magistrates and Crown Courts, the case was taken all the way to the High Court where the Judge found with the plaintiff and essentially ruled that as the law stands, cattle grids constitute a blockage of the entire right of way and therefore cannot be consented on bridleways. Alternative access arrangements (ie the normal off set gate) were deemed to be irrelevant as they lay outside the right of access.

What does this mean in practical terms? Hopefully nothing but that rather depends on the attitude of the access lobby. The Council has no desire to waste limited resources in seeking out cattle grids, but will have to act if complaints are received. If wishing to install a cattle grid on a bridleway, the early involvement of the County Access Team may well prove prudent.

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