HORSE riders in Overton are set to claim victory after a planning inspector proposed they should be permitted to use a disputed path.
The row about Flashetts footpath began in 2008 when, following a request from Overton Parish Council, signs were put up banning cyclists and horse riders from using the path, which runs from Kingsclere Road to Station Road.
But the path was then reclassified as a bridleway by Hampshire County Council, after horse riders provided evidence to show that it had been used for horse-riding since the 1950s.
Overton Parish Council and some residents objected, and the matter was referred to a planning inspector.
Both sides, including cyclists and pedestrians, gave evidence at the resulting planning inquiry on October 3.
In his newly-issued interim decision, Mark Yates, the inquiry inspector, said horse riders and cyclists could carry on using the path as there had been enough evidence of its continuous use by them over 20 years, as required by law.
He added: “Some issues have been raised regarding whether use of the claimed route by horse riders is suitable or desirable. However, these matters are not relevant to my decision. Nor in my view is it relevant that the width of the route is not sufficient to accommodate all of the types of user.”
He also said the landowners – formerly Portals estate and now banknote paper company De La Rue – took no action to inform the public that the path was not intended to be a bridleway.
Mr Yates has proposed changing the path from a bridleway to a restricted byway. Both can be used by horse riders and cyclists and the only difference is a restricted byway can also be used by non-mechanically propelled vehicles.
Overton Parish Council chairman Tom Ridler, who gave evidence at the inquiry, said the path is churned up by horses, but added: “We have to move forward. We want to make sure everyone enjoys the path.”
The inspector’s interim decision will be advertised and comments can be made before a final decision is made.