Locals open to beauty spot footpath for the first time in 20 YEARS

The bitter 19-YEAR war over a humble footpath: How villagers could finally get to wander through bluebell woods once more… two decades after being banned by landowner who insisted beauty spot was ‘private property’

  •  Locals have battled landowner over their right to roam for nearly two decade
  •  But planning inspectors are poised to rule on granting villagers access to path

Neighbours are set to walk down a beauty spot footpath for the first time in almost 20 years – after previously being blocked by a landowner.

Ellen Salton, 56, sparked a row over the path when she put up ‘private property’ signs attempting to stop people walking to ‘beautiful’ bluebell woods.

The signs were put up as far back as 2004 along the walkway in Tredomen, near Hengoed, South Wales, and fencing now blocks off its entrance.

But neighbours campaigned for the path to be reopened – and planning inspectors have backed their case with an interim ruling.

The decision, which is pending further objections, means walkers could soon step foot on the beauty spot path for the first time in almost two decades.

Former council worker Brian Elliot, 67, said: ‘The path links from where I live in Tredomen through to past what we call Bluebell Wood to a registered footpath at the other end of the wood.

Path through paradise: Brian Elliot’s commute from his home through the Bluebell woods to the train station, before the ‘private property’ signs were put in place. Circles top right is the home of landowner Ellen Salton. Circled mid-left is the railway station.

Since 2004, ‘private property’ signs have made clear locals are not welcome in bluebell woods

‘The bluebells would be coming out around now too. It’s just such a shame.’

Brian said he commuted using the path for almost 30 years until signs went up and the path was blocked by landowner Ellen Salter.

‘I used to use it every morning as it joined through to Ystrad Mynach station and on my way home. It was a beautiful walk.

‘It stopped when the lady who bought the farm decided she wanted to stop public access through the wood.

‘She tried to barricade the fence to stop people using it.

‘It is a great pity because we had been able to use it for quite a long time and it was beautiful through there.

‘It was so lovely and it is such a shame we couldn’t come to an agreement amicably.’

Mr Elliot said he didn’t know Ms Salter personally but had seen her at various meetings regarding the path and its access.

He said accusations that there was a ‘conspiracy’ against her were ‘ridiculous.’

Caerphilly County Borough Council declared it a new public right of way in 2019 – but Ms Salton appealed the decision and a planning inquiry was held earlier this year by Welsh Government organisation Planning and Environment Decisions Wales.

An interim decision was made to grant public access to the path after an investigating by planning inspector Janine Townsley.

Ms Townsley said the path had been used without ‘force, secrecy, or permission’ for more than 20 years and decided on the balance of probabilities in order to grant the right of way.

Brian Elliot may once again be able to walk from his home through the bluebell woods to the railway station – his commute before the ‘private property’ signs banned locals from footpath  

However the decision is subject to consultation, and therefore the public do not have the right to use it until the order is confirmed.

Neighbour Susan Smith, 74, applied to the council for the footpath to be declared a public right of way after using it since she was just a girl.

She said: ‘To get anywhere now we have to go all round the houses and streets when we were able to use the path.

‘We just want to have the path back that we have always had. It’s beautiful down there it’s really very lovely.’

Another resident, who asked not to be named said: ‘I’m in my eighties now and I fear if I live to 100 I may never walk down that path again.

This means war: Locals have fought for their right to roam for nearly two decades 

‘Children used to pick huge bunches of bluebells down there and take them home for their parents but I don’t know if they’re even still there.

Fellow neighbour Diana Tura previously told officials the bluebell woods along the path were her ‘sanctuary’.

She said: ‘All the people in Tredomen just want to keep what we have, nothing more.’

Miss Salton claims there is a ‘conspiracy’ against her and says there is not a clear path that has ever been used by residents.

Andy Dunlop, representing Ms Salton, said a ‘proper investigation’ had not been carried out before the 2019 decision.

He said: ‘This order should not have been made if proper investigation had occurred.’

Planning inspector Janine Townsley must now decide if the path was used for at least 20 years before 2002 without ‘force, secrecy or permission’.

Ms Townsley said points C-F on a map of the planned path should be granted as public right of way – but that A-C need not be included because the land is already council owned.

Paradise lost: A snap of the the bluebell woods… before access was barred by landowner 

The local council declared the path a new public right of way in 2019 under Section 53 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Points D-F on the map run through Miss Salton’s land.

An application for a right of way was originally made in 2005 before it was re-submitted in 2017.

Caerphilly Council blamed a ‘backlog’ for the 14 year delay in making its decision.

A spokesperson said: ‘Given our limited resources, and other statutory duties carried out by officers of the public rights of way department, these matters can take a considerable time to resolve.’

The path has remained closed for four years while the appeals process takes place.

Miss Salton was approached to comment.

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