RESIDENTS in Bratton have won a two-year battle to re-open the village’s scenic Watercress Walk, after it was closed by a London property developer.

Led by Phillip Workman, they gained Wiltshire Council support after campaigning to keep the woodland walk open when it was fenced off by a newcomer to the village.

Henry Pelly erected fences, barbed wire and signs saying Private Property in October 2016 after moving into the £1.25 million Luccombe Mill at Bratton with his partner.

More than 80 residents complained to Wiltshire Council that they had been using the walk as a right of way for more than 20 years.

They told the planning hearing the walk had been used for decades by local residents, ramblers and visitors to Bratton.

Now the path has been designated as a public right of way after the council successfully won a appeal hearing, held in Bratton’s Jubilee Hall in September.

Planning inspector Heidi Cruickshank has just announced the right of way must be reinstated.

Mr Pelly will be told that he must remove any fencing obstructing walkers and the council will now modify maps to record it as a public footpath.

A Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “We are pleased the inspector has agreed with our original decision and for those who campaigned for it to remain open.

“She has now ordered the path should be added as a public footpath and we will now work with the affected landowners to make the path available to the public again in the near future.”

Bratton Parish Council chairman Cllr Jeff Ligo said: “We just glad that the matter has been resolved. We’re trying to sort this out amicably with Mr Pelly because he still hasn’t taken the fences down. The path is still blocked.”

Katherine Beaumont, of Stradbrook, Bratton, who was one of the campaigners, said: “We’re delighted with the result. We’re hoping the walk will now be re-opened for use by residents, ramblers and future generations.

“When Mr Pelly closed the path, we tried to talk to him but he just wouldn’t listen, so we had to go down the legal route.”It is just the law and, in this case, we felt that it should be enforced. The path is part of the village history.”

The path runs for about 620 metres, including alongside the edge of Luccombe Mill, through part of the garden.After moving in, Mr Pelly fenced it off and erected ‘Private Property’ signs and fencing to stop people using it as a public right of way.

It crosses a stream before coming out onto land owned by Wessex Water. The path is known as the Watercress Walk because part of it goes on a raised path over watercress beds.

Mr Pelly has six weeks from November 16 to appeal to the High Court, but only if he can prove the planning inspector erred in law.He has not responded to Wiltshire Times requests for a comment before the paper went to press.