A LOTTERY winner who was taken to court for blocking a public footpath next to his home in Thornbury has spoken out. 

Wealthy businessman Mark Skuse, 53, was ordered to pay more than £8,000 for obstructing the right of way next to his six-bed mansion that has been popular with walkers for years.

Mark, who scooped £120k with his wife Wendy in the postcode lottery two years ago, put up fencing and signage but was ordered by South Gloucestershire Council in May last year to reopen the path.

But he ignored the pleas and was summoned to appear at Bristol Magistrates Court on Monday, March 18, where he was found guilty of obstructing the public right of way. 

He was handed a £5,000 fine, along with £1,155.60 in costs and a £2,000 victim surcharge. 

Speaking after the case, Mark hit out at the legal action taken against him by the council. 

He says he was forced to restrict access and take action after a series of attempted thefts and unruly pooches that took over his garden.

Mark, of Lower Morton, near Thornbury, who bought the home for £1.25M three years ago, claimed that he only blocked off the public footpath after "around seven" incidents threatening his home occurred last summer.

Neighbours who use the path said his actions were wrong and SGC said they hoped the legal action taken against him would act as a warning to others. 

At its nearest point, the distance between the path and Mark’s house is around 50 metres.  

He claims he’s had to spend £60 to £70k on security measures to defend his land – which have included two guard dogs, CCTV cameras and electric gates - and says blocking the path was his last resort. 


Gazette Series: South Gloucestershire Council photo showing the obstruction South Gloucestershire Council photo showing the obstruction (Image: South Gloucestershire Council)

Mark said people have used the footpath to access his property and put his family's safety at risk.

He said: "I had problems with people coming up at night with the intention of theft. 

"We have had damage from attempted thefts.

“The path is an easy way for criminals to come up.

“But if you call the police, it’s forty minutes before anyone comes out”. 

“My wife and I have eight kids, seven grandkids.

“In the summer we all congregate out the back. We’ve got a pool, BBQ, you get people walking by. They have a dog off the lead. The dog is then running, interacting with us. That’s not really on. 

“Dogs come into the swimming pool, have a crap in the garden. 

“I’ve had a dog jump in the swimming pool while the grandkids are in there. Is that acceptable?"

Gazette Series: Mark Skuse, aged 53, was ordered to pay more than £8,000 for obstructing two public paths next to his home Mark Skuse, aged 53, was ordered to pay more than £8,000 for obstructing two public paths next to his home (Image: SWNS)

Mark says the whole court process cost him £16k because of the £8k legal bill he had to foot. 

And he claimed he felt let down by the council’s unwillingness to work with him directly. 

“Why don’t they come out and talk to you?", he added.

“They just try and get a big stick out and batter you."

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

SGC investigated and found that Skuse had blocked two public footpaths that crossed his land with fencing and had put up a number of notices saying that the paths were closed.

The team sent a letter to Skuse in May 2023 informing him that this was an offence, however the council said this was ignored and no attempt was made at any time to engage with the council regarding the offences.

The council said it was then left with "no option" other than to issue a court summons to Skuse for the unlawful obstructions.

Neighbour Trevor Hellen, aged 79, said although he sympathises with Mark's situation, he dismissed the idea that you can shut down a public footpath. 

He added: “We would be furious if we were in Mark’s position. 

“I can see his point, but he cannot stop the footpath. 

“I feel sorry for him. He’s a very nice man. 

“I am a walker myself and I would hate for ancient footpaths to be closed for no good reasons. 

“[But] if it’s causing that much trouble then frankly it should be closed. There are other footpaths that can be used."

Another resident, Linda Burkill, aged 82, added: "He should not have shut them off.

“It’s quite a nice walk going through the fields."

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 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.”

Mark and his wife Wendy previously hit the headlines after they won £120,000 on the Postcode Lottery in July 2022.