Dog walkers who want access to a woodland near Bromham took their fight to a public inquiry.
They are in dispute with Jonathon Seed, a Wiltshire councillor, who leases the woodland at Chittoe Heath Plantation and maintains it is private land.
The inquiry concluded a saga that started three years ago when dog walker Nigel Thomas, of Horsepool, Bromham, applied to Wiltshire Council to add a footpath through the plantation to the map of Chittoe.
A total of 22 people submitted evidence to the council that they had walked through the plantation between December 1988 and December 2008 and therefore public rights of way should be added.
Wiltshire Council turned down Mr Thomas’s application as officers could not be certain the walkers had taken the same routes. He appealed and a Government planning inspector upheld it.
This led to the public inquiry last week, held at Bromham Social Centre, before planning inspector Mark Yates.
The proposal is for three footpaths to be added to the definitive map of Chittoe Heath Plantation – one that follows the perimeter with spurs leading off it and two other routes across the woodland.
Mr Seed, Wiltshire councillor for Summerham and Seend, argued the woodland has always been private and there have been signs stating this, but dog walkers at the inquiry disputed this.
John Benham, of Highfield, Bromham, said: “I have walked in the woods for more than 50 years. There was never any serious attempt to keep anyone out and I never saw a sign.”
The plantation is behind Mr Seed and his wife, Les-ley’s, house where they run bed and breakfast and self-catering accommodation.
Mr Seed said he and his wife had given permission for dog walkers to use the plantation and were happy for this permissive access to continue.
He argued that there has never been a definitive path in the plantation and claimed dog walkers have walked wherever they pleased, including some who followed the route of their dogs off their leads.
Mr and Mrs Seed have leased the woodland since November 2009.
Mr Yates will publish his decision in due course.
Gazette and Herald - Friday 11 May 2012