Neighbours near Kelso at odds over disputed footpath

Gates at a dwelling called Middle March at Ladyrig, close to Heiton.
Gates at a dwelling called Middle March at Ladyrig, close to Heiton.

A planning row between neighbours over a disputed right of way has led to closed-circuit TV cameras being installed and accusations of harassment being bandied around in both directions.

Robert and Lynda Jones want to have a planning condition imposed on them by Scottish Borders Council requiring them to maintain a public right of way running alongside the home they built on hitherto-unused land at Ladyrig at Heiton, near Kelso, lifted. 

The disputed footpath at Ladyrig at Heiton, near Kelso.

The disputed footpath at Ladyrig at Heiton, near Kelso.

The Joneses maintain that the path is not a historical right of way as they say previous maps from Ordnance Survey Scotland and the National Library of Scotland show the path either absent or following a different route. 

However, angry neighbours have lodged 28 objections to the plans, also submitting a petition backed by 21 signatories. 

They say that the Joneses have erected large gates at either side of the path and have installed CCTV alongside their house, called Middlemarch, to give the impression the path has already been blocked off. 

Sharon Keen, of Ladyrig, writes in her objection: “The footpath has always been regularly used and continues to be so, despite the applicants’ actions in removing signage to discourage visitors from exercising their lawful rights to use the path. 

“I have witnessed extreme harassment of users by the applicants and the erection of gates to discourage use in flagrant violation of the conditions of their planning approval.

“I suggest that the council should take action to correct these breaches.”

Richard Gray, also of Ladyrig, writes: “I was dismayed that the footpath between the new houses at Ladyrig is threatened with closure. 

“I have regularly used the route as part of a circular walk since moving here long before the new house was built.

“I am also concerned that the fencing has made the path narrow and that it is overlooked by cameras attached to the house walls.

“I note that discussions have already taken place with council officers, but it is my hope that local views are sought before making a decision.”

In response to those objections, the Joneses have hit back with a new supporting statement reading: “The map history around the path is a total mess.

“It is a path of double standards. It cannot cross one garden but crosses another.

“It is blocked in numerous places, but no one complains.

“It is unsigned everywhere, yet people want signs only in our garden.

“The 2016 decision notice highlights that this path has no identity or importance in the eyes of officers, yet officer after officer has conditioned it in our garden while allowing every other part of this path to fall by the wayside. “It shows open discrimination against us. 

“Scottish Borders Council’s access team have been unable to provide any proof to justify their actions in creating a path section on our plot in 2005. 

“They have also failed to prove that this path existed from 1948. We have clearly demonstrated significant evidence against the council’s position.”

The Joneses also claim that problems had only started to arise since they lodged their application, saying: “The access team requested we log usage, which we did for five months in advance of a meeting with the community council.

“This provided clear evidence of usage before this path became emotive. Usage has always been extremely low on the path section through the garden, although this has increased since the application has been submitted . 

“The path section is now not being walked responsibly by certain walkers who are using it to harass and intimidate.”

As well as sparking objections, the application has also attracted 17 responses in support of the couple. 

Caroline Scott, of Kelso, writes: “We are talking about 80 yards of a three-mile path here.

“The path is so close that you can be touched by people on the path when you are on the drive or entering the house. 

“The planners positioned the house too close to the path and it’s part of a private garden.

“There are also real question marks over the authenticity of this path. It is blocked in the field below the house at the burn and therefore does not join two places together. 

“People do not care that it is not open. They only want to walk in a private garden.”

The Joneses’ bid for planning permission to get rid of the path through their garden is now set to be decided on by the Scottish Government’s planning and environmental appeals department as they say the council has failed to make a decision within the legal timeframe. 

A reporter acting on behalf of ministers is currently in the process of determining the validity of the appeal.