Homeowner fuming as council plans to route public footpath through his back garden

A furious local historian says he’ll loose a quarter of his garden and it will be “impossible” to sell his home after a council revealed plans to open a footpath across his garden.

Neil Mattingly looks where the supposed footpath is planned in his garden

A homeowner is fuming after plans were unveiled to re-route a public footpath – through his back garden.

Neil Mattingly says the plans will leave his property unsellable and he faces losing a quarter of his garden by fencing off part of it to keep walkers and dogs off.

Neil has been used to seeing ramblers regularly walk along the path that runs alongside his rural property for years.

But he was shocked when he received a letter from his local council proposing a modification to the definitive map of the area showing a footpath cutting across his property.

When Neil bought the rural plot in Charmouth, Dorset, 14 years ago Ordnance Survey maps did not list the route.

Instead there is a well-use cut through running alongside his property towards the beach.

Neil Mattingly with the plan for the new path

The 72-year-old reckons the confusion stems from a council official getting their hands on an 1957 map and mistaking a stream that ran through his back garden for a footpath and ‘correcting’ a new map.

He flagged the issue up with the council four years ago and expected it to be dealt with but instead he’s now been told the path will be brought back into use.

It means he’ll have to fence off a large section of his back garden to stop dog walkers going onto his lawn and remove a hefty earth bank.

One of the existing paths around Neil Mattingly’s property

Mr Mattingly said: “I have been trying for the last four years for the council to see sense and reroute it to the west of my garden where it is already being used, but without any success.

“I have had terrific support from many villagers who feel it’s very unjust, especially as it would require the lowering of a six foot bank to allow access.

“It would go straight past my back door, I would have to fence it off and lose about a quarter of my garden and my next door neighbor would have the same problem.

“The path is not shown on my deeds going back to when the house was built in 1922 or on any Ordnance Survey maps.

An aerial view of Neil Mattingly’s Dorset property

“No-one in the village can ever recall it being used as a footpath when the existing one to the west of my garden linking it to the coastal path is much shorter and regularly used.

“There would be no reason for using it.

“All I wanted is for them to correct the map, I can’t believe it’s so difficult. It’s so frustrating.

“If I try to sell my house, with them making it official, it makes it impossible. I wouldn’t have bought my house if I knew there was a footpath going through.”

One of the existing paths around Neil Mattingly’s property


Max Willcock/BNPS)

The current route is unofficial but links up with an overgrown footpath which ends just before Mr Mattingly’s home, which dates back to a failed attempt in 1898 to build an estate.

From the end of that path people can cut across a field to join up with the unofficial route.

A spokesman for Dorset Council said: “Dorset Council is continuing to look into this matter. The legal route of Footpath 12 in Charmouth has been recorded in the same position since the early 1950s, but the resident most affected by the path was not aware of its existence when they purchased their property.

One of the existing paths around Neil Mattingly’s property leading to the beach

“The part of the legally recorded route of the path that passes through their garden hasn’t been physically available to the public for many years, but there is an alternative unofficial route which people can use to access the coast path.

“We are currently investigating the history of the route to determine exactly where it should be recorded and how wide the footpath is.

“Once we have established this information, we will continue to work with local residents to determine the best way forward.

Neil Mattingly with the plan for the new path

“We appreciate that this has caused a great deal of concern locally and are keeping everyone informed as much as possible, but the legal process that we have to go through can take some time.

“The council currently has no future plans to undertake any work on the path.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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