Michelmores successfully opposes bridleway order

Michelmores' Agricultural Litigation team has succeeded in opposing a Definitive Map Modification Order (DMMO) which would have re-categorised a public footpath running through our clients' woodlands as a bridleway. If confirmed by the Secretary of State, the DMMO would have allowed horse riders and cyclists access to the environmentally sensitive ancient woodland, which is classified as a site of special scientific interest.

With the help of the Michelmores team, led by Partner Adam Corbin and also consisting of Rob Bailey and Hannah Drew along with Alistair Mills of Landmark Chambers, the land owners successfully opposed the confirmation of the DMMO.

The application relied upon a combination of historical documents and user evidence. The case involved issues of capacity to dedicate and historical charity law as well as interpretation of historical documents and arguments concerning the safety of the proposed reclassification.

The land owners said:                                                                                                                                                   

‘We had absolutely no experience of public rights of way matters and are glad we asked Michelmores to act for us.  They assembled a team of specialists who not only impressed us with their thorough and knowledgeable credentials, but also with their understanding and collaborative approach.  The Michelmores team and Alistair Mills helped us navigate the considerable stress caused by the fight to protect and preserve this valuable haven for people and wildlife.   We are pleased to have the opportunity to thank them and would not hesitate to recommend them to anybody in a similar position.’

The decision hopefully marks the end of a long-running dispute, with the present application being made in 1996, following an unsuccessful previous attempt to reclassify the footpath at a public inquiry held in 1995 and historical evidence showing some uncertainty over the footpath's status dating back more than a hundred years.

A full copy of the decision can be found here.

A recent Court of Appeal decision has confirmed that there is limited scope for local authorities to dismiss applications for DMMOs. The requirement for any unrecognised or incorrectly recorded public footpaths and bridleways to be recorded on the Definitive Map by 2026 is also believed to have led to an increase in DMMO applications. Because of these two factors, it is anticipated that there will be an increasing number of this type of dispute being heard at public inquiries and Adam and his team continue to act on a number of such matters.