I live next to a lovely country house estate (Cubberley House in Hom Green, Ross-on-Wye). There's a public footpath that runs through that 92 acre estate, that's on the definitive map. It's a lovely route that goes from Wilton Bridge in Ross-on-Wye south west to the hamlet of Hom Green. Enjoyed by walkers and runners alike. Where the footpath runs through that estate it is well signed and fenced, where it crosses the drive of the estate there are a couple of metal spiked gates. There are also stiles at the entrance and exit of the ~0.25 mile stretch of the footpath through that private land.
A couple of years ago a couple purchased the estate. Last year they zip tied shut the metal gates passing the drive. After receiving a notice from the council they removed those ties.
2 weeks ago they did the following:
Removed all stiles from the foot path and replaced them with 6 foot high fence segments
Barbed wire shut the 2 gates
Completely removed a well made footpath bridge over a stream
Last week they:
Welded shut the metal gates
Replaced the stile replaced fences with boards
Put up 'keep out due to Coronavirus' signs
Suffice to say Ross-on-Wye social media groups are up in arms. Following due process the council has been made aware and a contravention of the highways act notice has been served on the land owner.
Public rights of way in the UK have been hard fought over and are well defended by law. However with the county council so underfunded, and the contractor (Balfour Beatty) overstretched as it is, covering also pot hole and other highway maintenance obligations, likely this issue will not be resolved for some time.
Both within legal rights, and also compelling to consider, one could remove the obstructions to ensure public right of access. However if the council removed and replaced these obstructions, the land owner would be billed for time+materials.
The thing that pisses me off the most is the blatant disregard of the law being exhibited. The Coronavirus reason is just an excuse, the house is a long way from the footpath and if anything, following DEFRA's advise, all gates on the footpath should be tied open to ensure no one has to touch them. Spending £4M on a country pad does not grant anyone the right to ride roughshod over the laws of this country.
It will be resolved in time, I'm sure. But in cases like these the authorities don't seem to have the teeth to ensure it's resolved quickly and that it won't happen again.