A MAN from Thornbury faces a whopping court bill after blocking two public footpaths with fencing. 

Mark Skuse, of Lower Morton, Thornbury, has been ordered to pay more than £8,100 after he was prosecuted by South Gloucestershire Council. 

The case was heard at Bristol Magistrates Court on Monday, March 18 where Skuse pleaded guilty. 

The court heard that a report was sent to the council from a member of the public in February 2023 stating that two public footpaths in Pound Farm had been blocked for several months.

A council investigation found that Skuse - who bought the land in June 2021 - had blocked the two footpaths that crossed his land with mesh Heras fencing. 

A number of notices had also been put up stating that the paths were temporarily closed, although a temporary closure had not been applied for. 

The council’s Public Rights of Way team sent a letter to Skuse in May 2023 informing him that this was an offence. 

However, the council says this warning was “ignored” and no attempt was made by Skuse to engage with the council regarding the offences.

Skuse was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay a £2,000 victim surcharge plus £1,155.60 in costs - a total of £8,155.60.

He was prosecuted for breaking Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 which makes it an offence for a person to “wilfully obstruct a highway”. 

Mark King, service director of Place Operations at South Gloucestershire Council said: “We’re pleased with this result, which is the first time the council has had to resort to a prosecution of this type. 

“There are 783 miles (1257km) of public rights of ways across South Gloucestershire and we have a responsibility for making sure that they are usable, safe, legal and enjoyable, in partnership with town and parish councils, landowners and the public.

“Hopefully this will act as a deterrent for anyone breaking the law with regards to accessing land. 

“Public rights of way are a legally protected right for the public to pass, giving access to the countryside and urban areas. 

“They are classed as Highways and their obstruction without lawful authority is an offence that can result in up to 51 weeks in prison or an unlimited fine, or both.”

To report a suspected issue to the council’s Public Rights of Way team email rightsofway@southglos.gov.uk or telephone 01454 868004.