The Daily Telegraph

Villagers on warpath over access to bluebell wood

- By Daily Telegraph Reporter

VILLAGERS campaignin­g for the right to reopen a footpath leading to a bluebell wood they call their “sanctuary” have secured a planning inquiry to resolve the 18-year dispute.

The row erupted in 2004 when Ellen Salton, 56, a landowner, put up signs stating the footpath in Tredomen, near Hengoed, south Wales, was “private property” in an attempt to stop people from walking along it.

But Susan Smith, 74, a resident who said she has been using the footpath since she was a child, applied to the council for the footpath to be declared a public right of way.

Ms Smith told officials: “We’re determined we don’t want to lose this footpath as we only have one left.”

An applicatio­n for a right of way was first made in 2005 before it was re-submitted in 2017.

Caerphilly County borough council declared the footpath a new public right of way in 2019, but Ms Salton has since appealed against the decision.

Diana Tura, another resident, said the bluebell woods along the path were her “sanctuary”. She added: “All the people in Tredomen just want to keep what we have, nothing more.”

An inquiry by Planning and Environmen­t Decisions Wales, a Welsh Government agency, has been launched to decide whether the path can stay open to the public.

Janine Townsley, a planning inspector, must now decide if the path was used for at least 20 years before 2002

‘We’re determined we don’t want to lose this footpath as we only have one left’

without “force, secrecy or permission”.

But Ms Salton has claimed there is a “conspiracy” against her and says there is not a clear path that has ever been used by residents.

Andy Dunlop, representi­ng Ms Salton, claimed a “proper investigat­ion” had not been carried out before the 2019 decision, adding: “This order should not have been made if proper investigat­ion had occurred.”

The path has remained closed for four years during the appeals process.

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