Bid to close controversial footpath near Kelso now set to go to court

A long-running row over a right of way near Kelso is still no nearer the end of the road now planners have ruled that it is more a matter for a courthouse than a council chamber.

By Joseph Anderson, local democracy reporter
Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 11:15 am
Gates in the way of a footpath past Middle March at Ladyrig, close to Heiton.
Gates in the way of a footpath past Middle March at Ladyrig, close to Heiton.

Robert and Lynda Jones have won their fight to remove a planning condition imposed by Scottish Borders Council requiring them to maintain a public footpath alongside the home they built on hitherto-unused land at Ladyrig at Heiton, but that decision edges them only slightly closer to achieving their aim of getting rid of the disputed route. 

The Joneses maintain that the path is not a historical right of way as they claim previous maps Ordnance Survey Scotland and National Library of Scotland maps either don’t show the path at all or chart it as following a different route. 

Disgruntled neighbours lodged 28 objections to their application, however, also drawing up a petition backed by 21 signatories. 

They are unhappy that the couple have fitted large gates at either side of the path at their home, called Middle March, and installed closed-circuit TV cameras to monitor it as they say that gives the impression it has already been blocked off. 

Following a lengthy process including a rejected plea to the Scottish Government’s planning appeals department, council planning officers have admitted that, due to rights of way being protected by law, the conditions they imposed are superfluous.

John Hayward, the council’s planning and development standards manager, advised members of its planning and building standards committee at their latest meeting that the conditions imposed on the Joneses duplicate existing legal provision for the maintenance of the path, so he advised them to agree to remove them.

They accepted that advice, unanimously agreeing to lift the conditions previously insisted on. 

That change of heart by officers took many of those at the meeting by surprise as both objectors and supporters had turned up to express their views. 

Residents Pete Gillespie, Andrew Hunter and Rory Bell, also a Heiton community councillor, had attended to speak against the application only to discover that their objections were unnecessary. 

Mr Jones also appeared before the committee, saying he is glad the controversial planning condition has now been lifted. 

He said: “The path in our garden will now be managed by the correct policy.

“Scottish Borders Council were the ones who requested the fence and the gate, and the path’s age remains unproven.”