LETTERS of support for a Somerset footpath campaigner have flooded in from all over the UK.
Marlene Masters has been campaigning for more than two decades to get Somerset County Council to remove a footpath in High Ham from its official maps.
The Western Gazette reported earlier this month that Mrs Masters, of Yarlington, had applied for a judicial review to force the council to remove the path which runs past the home of the late Archie and Ivy Peppard.
Now supporters of her 22-year campaign have come forward, many of whom have endured similar legal battles with their local government.
Jean Underdown, from the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales, attended the public inquiry which found in Mrs Masters' favour in 2014.
She said: "Mrs Masters tied the council up in knots by her superior knowledge, which they lacked. The council looked like bumbling fools, which they are, and they made the lives of the Peppards a total misery.
"Do taxpayers understand how much money is wasted by these incompetent fools in council offices up and down the country? The law needs to change."
The Peppard saga began in 1959, when the council claimed a path that ran outside the Peppards' cottage as a public right of way. The Peppards began their own legal challenge in 1973, with Mrs Masters taking up their cause in 1994.
Alan Bowers, from Bedfordshire, described the council's actions as "vindictive" towards law-abiding citizens, and said that its actions should be examined on a national scale.
He said: "I and many others have experienced many years of distress in trying to obtain justice regarding unlawful rights of way. Our plight is not a vote-winning issue and is ignored by those in power, who are able to right the wrongs.
"Marlene Masters is an inspiration to us all: over the years she has helped many rights of way sufferers throughout the land tirelessly, and at her own expense."
Roger Duffin, of Wethersfield in Essex, described the legal battle as "a criminal waste of public money" and accused the council of "obstruction".
He said: "Having allowed this case to drag on for so long, the right and proper thing to do would be to spend the relatively small amount of time required to delete this path and then set about resolving the other 300 cases with as much speed as possible.
"The fact that a member of the public should have to seek a judicial review to achieve justice is saddening. The lack of transparency over the number and nature of latest objections, and the time taken, can only foster speculation at the council's true motives in dragging this case out. It would appear to have little to do with justice or democracy."
Mrs Masters said that she hopes that the judicial review will finally put an end to this long legal battle.
She said: "I have been successful in the High Court in 2012, and successful in the public inquiry in 2014.
"There can be no question that the council has failed in its statutory duty and allowed the opposed orders to gather dust, while making orders to 'upgrade' footpaths to restricted byways, or add footpaths or bridleways. Maybe it will be third time lucky?"
A council spokesman said: "There are two sides to this and we have a duty to progress both applications to amend the definitive map and the submission of opposed orders. This is done in parallel to make sure that neither duty is neglected.
"We would stress there is no deadline for submission of opposed orders so we are not failing in our statutory duty. We remain committed to submitting the outstanding opposed orders as soon as possible, but these cases are complex and the staff resources available are under increasing pressure.
"We would again like to make it clear that the High Ham footpath deletion order has attracted objections from other parties – not from the county council. Ultimately it will be up to the Planning Inspectorate to decide the outcome of the case.
"From our point of view, the judicial process is an unwelcome distraction for staff who are trying to progress matters. As long as the process continues it will continue to hamper resources and cost the taxpayer more money."
See the article in the Western Gazette here.
Click below to leave your comments.
Intrusive Footpaths campaigns for change, trying to encourage as many people to the cause as possible. The greater our support, the louder the message!