Leading Solicitor Erects Greased Barricade to Block Footpath, Sparking Public Inquiry
In a surprising turn of events, a prominent solicitor in Norfolk has taken matters into her own hands and erected a four-foot-high barricade smeared with grease to prevent walkers from using a footpath near her home. Sine Garvie-Mcinally used wooden stakes to block off a 150-meter stretch of the footpath, causing a stir in the local community and prompting a public inquiry.
The footpath in question is part of the Nar Valley Way, a popular walking route that runs just 20 meters away from Garvie-Mcinally’s cottage. The former Norfolk County Council solicitor claims that the path infringes on her right to privacy, citing instances of men urinating outside her garden and suffering verbal abuse from walkers.
During the public inquiry, Garvie-Mcinally defended her actions, asserting that she was merely trying to safeguard her home. She argued that the footpath allows people to have a clear view into her windows, compromising her privacy. She also mentioned instances of harassment and rude comments made towards her. In her view, if the decision were to go against her, she would be left with no choice but to sell her house as she would no longer be able to live in peace.
The dispute over the footpath has been ongoing for three decades, with the recent public inquiry being the latest development. The Norfolk Ramblers Association claims that the path was registered as a public right of way, a claim that Garvie-Mcinally vehemently denies. To further prevent access to the disputed path, it has been blocked off with greasy anti-climb paint, and warning signs have been put up, indicating the presence of CCTV surveillance.
The origins of the dispute date back to 1993 when Garvie-Mcinally and her family moved into the village. The council initially deemed the path a registered path, but the controversy lies in whether it is a public one. Despite its status remaining unconfirmed, walkers and riders continued to use the path. In 2000, a local landowner put up signs prohibiting vehicles from using it. Nine years later, a group of horse riders expressed their grievances about restricted access to the route, and Garvie-Mcinally resurrected her objections to the path, leading to the construction of the barricade in August 2020.
The Norfolk Ramblers Association proceeded to apply for the path to be officially registered as a public right of way, a request that the council granted a year later. Garvie-Mcinally appealed the decision to the Planning Inspectorate, an agency under the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. It was this long-standing dispute that prompted the public inquiry to finally settle the matter.
Garvie-Mcinally’s argument revolves around the claim that the path falls under excepted land according to the Countryside Right of Way Act (2001) since her home is within a 20-meter radius of the track, which she believes infringes on her privacy rights. On the other hand, locals and walkers, supported by the National Ramblers Association, have produced historical maps dating back to 1774, suggesting that the route has been in use for centuries. They contend that this historical evidence should support their case and maintain that the path should be designated a public byway based on the legal principle of once a highway, always a highway.
At present, the barricade blocks a section of the path that connects the Nar Valley Way from West Lexham to a road leading to Castle Acre. The decision on whether the barricade must be removed is expected to be announced by planning inspector Dr. Paul Freer early next year.
The dispute has garnered significant attention from both local residents and the wider community. Julie Whales, a resident of Great Dunham, expressed her disbelief at the attempt to restrict access to a route that has been used by people for generations, providing access to various villages in the county. Similarly, Helen Breach, an artist in the area, voiced her disappointment, emphasizing that the blocked path disrupts the enjoyment of the countryside and comes across as selfish and unsupportive of community spirit.
With differing perspectives and vested interests at play, the outcome of the public inquiry will ultimately determine the future use of the footpath. Until then, the barricade serves as a physical reminder of the tensions surrounding this contentious issue.