The Government has had to get involved after a tug-of-war over a farmland track between walkers and horse-riders in Coalpit Heath.

The situation has arisen after the 640-metre section between Frog Lane and Broad Lane was not recognised as a bridleway.

There was an unsuccessful attempt to change this but councillors made an order designating it as a public footpath after hearing residents who have lived nearby since as far back as 1944 had ‘never seen a horse using this claimed route’.

Ann Fay, a member of the British Horse Society, then submitted evidence that the route has been used as a bridleway since the 1960s.

Now, the dispute will be decided by a planning inspector after South Gloucestershire Council’s public rights of way and commons registration sub-committee sent the matter to Defra.

Two letters of support for the footpath were received, from Southwold Ramblers and a Westerleigh householder who regularly uses the route.

Simon Higgins, of Elm Farm, who has owned the land since 1995, told the sub-committee: “I do not and have never allowed horses, push-bikes or any other vehicle to use this area, except Network Rail under licence.

“This area has gates both ends and are secure to prevent unauthorised bigger access.”

Mr Higgins said he allowed walkers to use the route.

One person whose parents owned the farm from 1936 to 1973 said: “In all the 72 years I have lived here, there have always been gates and fencing in place which prevented access to the route.

“I have walked this route on numerous occasions and have never seen a horse-rider use Frog Lane.

“Walkers have used this route by climbing over the gates, fencing or the stile.”

A council officer said that new evidence included a letter from a horse-riding group claiming use of the track from 1975 to 1995.

It also comprised correspondence from the family who owned Frog Lane Farm between 1937 and 1974.

The officer said: “All evidence in support and against will be considered by the planning inspectorate.”

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