An Aldershot landowner who has blocked cyclists and walkers from access to part of the Blackwater Valley Path insists that he has the right to stop people from accessing his land, citing concerns over poachers, as well as his potential liability should someone be injured while using the path.
According to Get Hampshire, George Boulden installed padlocked gates in July last year to stop people using the path on the section passing through his property, which lies near North Camp Station. He told Rushmoor Borough Council that they should use Hollybush Lane instead.
His grounds for doing so, he maintains, lie in a document drawn up between the council and the previous landowners in 1989. He acquired the land in 2011, but has been embroiled in a dispute with the council over what it maintains is his unauthorised use of the land for his scrap metal dealership.
Mr Boulden said: “In 1989 RBC signed an official document giving them the right to pass and repass on foot, not cycle, over my property – a so-called permissive path. They also agreed in that document that the route of the permissive path can be diverted by the landowner at any time.”
He went on: “I own fishing lakes on either side of the permissive path and it is of great concern to me that the public are allowed access across my land, especially in the hours of darkness for the illegal activity of poaching my fish, and I am legally responsible for their welfare if they injure themselves on, or falling from, the antiquated bridges crossing the river.”
When access to the section of the path in question was blocked last year, one local cyclist, Alan Hilliar, said: “There are dozens if not hundreds of walkers and cyclists each week for whom this is an essential route, for work or for leisure.
"In the 10 minutes or so I was at the new gates, two other cyclists came along expecting to be able to use the path.
“To avoid the blocked off section, we have to either cycle an additional two miles via Ash Vale or take our lives in our hands by using the cycle track along the A331.
"I’ve certainly had a nasty accident on my bike along that section of the A331 caused by the poor maintenance of that section,” he added.
Bur the landowner maintains that that since cyclists are not permitted on the path according to that 1989 document, bike riders had “lost nothing.”
And according to Get Hampshire, a council official has agreed that while it is not familiar with the 1989 legal document, Mr Boulden could potentially be liable for the health and safety of visitors to his land and also has the right to close the path.
Separately, the council is embroiled in a dispute with Mr Boulden over the use of the land for his business, Universal Car Salvage.
Earlier this month, Get Hampshire reported that Rushmoor Borough Council’s development management committee had recommended that enforcement action be taken against Boulden due to his unauthorised use of the site.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.