A SOUTH Somerset campaigner has criticised the decision to remove well-established trees in Long Sutton to open up a contested bridleway.
Somerset County Council has cut down trees at Kingsmoor Drove, which have stood there since 1989, in an attempt to clear the bridleway leading from Long Load to Ilchester.
But Marlene Masters, who made her name campaigning about a disputed footpath in High Ham, has attacked what she has branded a "bridleway to nowhere".
Council contractors have cleared vegetation, installed a culvert, felled the trees and ground down the stumps at a cost of less than £5,000, according to a council spokesman.
Mrs Masters argues that consultation about the bridleway took place in the 1970s when the Ilchester bypass was being built.
She said: "There was a public opportunity to claim a footpath or bridleway status when the proposal of the Ilchester dual carriageway bypass was being discussed. But no-one did, not even the parish council or the county council. The law says 'silence is acquiescence'. No claim of a bridleway at the time means that legally there is no bridleway there."
Mrs Masters added that, even if the bridleway did exist, it is impossible for riders or walkers to currently use it because of the traffic.
She said: "Unless traffic lights are made available and the central reservation removed by County Highways to allow the 'alleged ancient historic bridleway' to cross over the four lanes, then there is no way the riders can continue through. They have no permission to use the over-bridge and ride a horse under the RNAS Yeovilton flight path."
Mrs Masters has now applied for the bridleway to be deleted from the county council's official maps.
The council has said that the removal of the trees was undertaken as part of its statutory duty and that the scope had been agreed with the landowner in October.
It added that "the existence of the bridleway is not seriously disputed" following a public enquiry nine years ago, which was upheld at a High Court appeal.
A spokesman said: "Previous attempts to formally divert the bridleway around a woodland that obstructs the way have unfortunately failed.
"We had been served a Highways Act notice by a third party to clear the woodland obstruction, and if we fail to remove the obstruction the matter could be referred to the Magistrates Court.
"The bridleway still remains obstructed by the A303 near Ilchester and we continue to look at options with Highways England to resolve this. The nearby over-bridge is only available for pedestrians. There are no public access rights for cyclists or horse-riders over this bridge.The works will provide for a more direct through route for walkers between Long Load and Ilchester."
The council has not confirmed the identity of the third party who served the notice for the trees to be removed.
See the article in the Western Gazette here.
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