Landowner buried footpath under tons of earth after dispute with residents

A landowner has buried a ‘well-used’ footpath under tons of soil with an industrial digger after a long-standing dispute with his neighbours.

Towards the end of last month the steps, which go up a steep hill, were covered in earth in “a complete fit of temper” by skip hire boss Christopher Rees, who bought the land on which they are situated two years ago.

Nearby residents have been left distraught with the actions and say that the route – a set of concrete steps – was an integral link between the tight-knit hillside community and the village below and has been in use since houses were first built there in the 1920s .

According to Wales Online, homeowners in Stormtown in the Taff Bargoed Valley say it is the latest incident in an ongoing dispute between Rees and locals.

They also claim to be at their wits’ end from being woken up by lorries and heavy machinery operating on the site “at all hours of the day and night.”

The highlighted steps going up the hill have been under the spotlight

One local, who asked not to be named, said: “Stormtown is a really tight-knit community and those that live here tend to stay put. Very few decide to move elsewhere.”

She added that the steps were a “claimed right of way” and feature on the deeds to many of the properties in the area.

“It’s lovely here, or at least it was. Since Chris bought the field there’s been noise from lorries going back and forth, materials being dumped, loud machinery at all hours and blinding lights shining through our windows at night.

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“He’s even starting to fence off the whole area – it’s very stressful.”

She added that, while an hourly bus runs through Stormtown, the only other way out for pedestrians is a winding rural road which has no pavement.

Rees, who owns Step Up Recycling Ltd, stated that the field is private property and was not being used for commercial purposes. He added that the land had been a waste dumping ground before he acquired it and that there would inevitably be “inconvenience” to those living nearby while the process of tidying it up was ongoing.

He said that piling earth on the steps was a response to “continuous harassment by a minority of Stormtown residents.” He added, “I have been extremely patient with them over the last two years and have provided them with lots of clarity and insight into the work I am carrying out.

“However, they are under the impression that I am not the legal owner of the land and have continued to make false statements that could potentially cause me a lot of trouble.” As a result, Rees said he decided to stop “certain individuals” accessing his land.

“Sadly though, that means other residents will also lose that privilege. I believe I am within my rights to do this as the route in question is not a public right of way.

“It is not marked on the definitive Merthyr Borough map and residents are not legally allowed to use it.” Merthyr County Borough Council is understood to be currently investigating the matter and has been approached for comment.

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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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