Thornbury man ordered to pay over £8,000 for obstructing public right of way

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A fenced off path with no entry signs

A Thornbury man has been ordered to pay a total of £8,155.60 in fines and costs after South Gloucestershire Council prosecuted him for the willful obstruction of a public right of way.

Mark Skuse, of Lower Morton in Thornbury, appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court on Monday 18 March after South Gloucestershire Council’s Public Rights of Way team prosecuted him for blocking two public footpaths that crossed his land. He was found guilty of obstructing the public right of way, contrary to Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980, and handed a £5,000 fine, along with £1,155.60 in costs and a £2,000 victim surcharge.

The court heard that a report was sent to the council from a member of the public in February 2023 stating that the public footpaths had been blocked for several months (the property was purchased by Skuse in June 2021).

The council’s Public Rights of Way team investigated and found that Skuse had blocked two public footpaths that crossed his land with Herras fencing and had put up a number of notices saying that the paths were temporarily closed, although a temporary closure had not been applied for. The team sent a letter to Skuse in May 2023 informing him that this was an offence, however this was ignored and no attempt was made at any time to engage with the council regarding the offences.

The council was left with no option other than to issue a court summons to Skuse for the unlawful obstructions.

Mark King, Service Director of Place Operations at South Gloucestershire Council said: “We’re pleased with this result, which is the first time the council has had to resort to a prosecution of this type. There are 783 miles (1257km) of public rights of ways across South Gloucestershire and we have a responsibility for making sure that they are usable, safe, legal and enjoyable, in partnership with town and parish councils, landowners and the public.

“Hopefully this will act as a deterrent for anyone breaking the law with regards to accessing land. Public rights of way are a legally protected right for the public to pass, giving access to the countryside and urban areas. They are classed as Highways and their obstruction without lawful authority is an offence that can result in up to 51 weeks in prison or an unlimited fine, or both.”

To report a suspected issue to the council’s Public Rights of Way team email rightsofway@southglos.gov.uk or telephone 01454 868004.

For more information visit www.southglos.gov.uk/prow