'Stinkpot' objectors speak at inquiry

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A PLANNING inquiry being held to decide whether a field in Stratford-sub-Castle popular with families and dog walkers should be made a right of way has heard from objectors.

Melanie Auchterlonie bought and fenced off the field near the River Avon, affectionately known as Stinkpot Alley, causing a row with about 100 residents who say they have been using a pathway through it for decades. Wiltshire Council’s southern area planning committee supported the residents’ application for it to be made a right of way and the planning inquiry started at Salisbury Rugby Club on October 30.

It resumed on Thursday, when inspector Alison Lea heard evidence from Ms Auchterlonie as well as Martin Clarke, who owns adjoining land.

Ms Auchterlonie closed the field to the public as it only had permissive rights of way, granted in 2004, which can be removed at the landowner’s discretion. S

he said her knowledge of the field goes back to the 90s when she lived in the area and rode her pony in nearby fields. “I never saw people in the field or using the field in the way that they have described,” she said.

She told the inquiry there is insufficient evidence to prove it has been used as a footpath continuously for 20 years, from 1979 to 1999, and that there is evidence to show landowners and tenants have always tried to prevent access to the public.

Ms Auchterlonie bought the field to manage the land and she is interested in its conservation, working closely with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. “I have already achieved a good deal,” she said.

Mr Clarke raised concerns about the way people have used the so-called beach area in the field, letting dogs off their leads and sometimes walking upstream and onto his land.

He said that the number of people using the field only increased in 2004, when the permissive rights of way order was granted, and not during the relevant 20 year period from 1979 to 1999. The inquiry came to an end on Thursday afternoon after four days and a decision is expected in about six weeks.

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