High Court upholds footpath diversion

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LONDON’S High Court has upheld a couple’s fight for privacy by diverting a historic footpath away from their village home.

Last December, Susan and Michael Weston of Bodicote Mill successfully won an order from Oxfordshire County Council to move the centuries’ old footpath away from their home after arguing it infringed on the privacy of their home.

The decision to relocate the path, which runs between Bodicote and Bloxham, was then challenged by members of the Ramblers (previously the Ramblers’ Association), who brought the case to London’s High Court on Friday.

However, Mr Justice Duncan Ouseley upheld the council’s previous decision, which had also received earlier backing from a Government planning inspector.

Mr Ouseley ruled the planning inspector had made no error in his original decision, agreeing that while the diversion would have a “small negative effect” on the public’s enjoyment of the right of way, it would have a “significant positive effect” on the Westons’ private lives.

Mr and Mrs Weston said: “We are very pleased that the judge upheld the original order so robustly.

“The new path has been open almost a year now and is used regularly by walkers.”

The Ramblers had argued the inspector had failed to take the public interest adequately into account, and that the inspector wrongly excluded as “not relevant” the fact that the Westons knew about the path when they bought their property.

The group also feared the decision would set a precedent for other cases.

Speaking after the hearing, Nicky Philpott, director of policy and campaigns for the Ramblers said: “In an attempt to strengthen the law protecting all paths, the Ramblers appeared in the High Court today to challenge a decision to divert a picturesque path at Bodicote and Bloxham in Oxfordshire.

“The Ramblers, the parish council and many individuals hoped to see it saved and it is a real disappointment that this historic path will be lost.”

Ronald Glynn, chairman of Bodicote Parish Council said: “This matter is out of our hands now but of course we are very disappointed that we were not listened to.

“We had many witnesses wanting to keep the path as it was, including people interested in history and architecture who now will not be able to get near the building.

“It’s an ancient path which led to the Mill and has been there a long time and we’re disappointed it will be moved.”