Bridleway access row erupts in council

PUBLISHED: 13:54 14 September 2006 | UPDATED: 22:12 28 May 2010

Michael Schaske with his wife Elaine’s carriage

Michael Schaske with his wife Elaine's carriage

EXCLUSIVE by JOHN ELWORTHY A PARISH councillor sat stony faced as a villager lambasted him for refusing to allow his disabled wife to ride a horse and carriage on a local bridleway. Councillor Reg Few was confronted by Michael Schaske as he arrived for Tu

The notice at the entrance to the county-council-owned bridleway

EXCLUSIVE by JOHN ELWORTHY

A PARISH councillor sat stony faced as a villager lambasted him for refusing to allow his disabled wife to ride a horse and carriage on a local bridleway.

Councillor Reg Few was confronted by Michael Schaske as he arrived for Tuesday's meeting of Benwick Parish Council.

Cllr Few, however, refused to speak with Mr Schaske and their dispute then took up part of the public forum at the beginning of the meeting.

Michael Schaske at the entrance to the bridleway, now blocked with bales of straw

Mr Schaske claims he has a map from the 1900s showing that the three-mile walkway is a 'towing path' and should be open to the public, especially since his wife's carriage riding has become one of her principal pastimes since an accident left her disabled.

But council chairman, Councillor Geoff Rusbrooke, said he had been in contact with Cambridgeshire County Council which assured him it was a 'permissive bridleway' which meant it could be used only with the consent of the owner.

Mr Schaske said his wife had used the bridleway for the past 18 months but a fortnight ago Cllr Few erected bales of straw to the entrance to stop her using her carriage.

"This is discriminating against disabled people," said Mr Schaske before the meeting. "What right has someone to block off this path?

"My wife is unable to ride a horse on its own; she needs to have the carriage as well."

His wife Elaine was seriously injured when a horse reared up at her six years ago and she was airlifted to hospital from the village.

Since then she has fought against her disabilities, winning trophies for carriage riding - most recently winning a prize at Chatsworth - and has undertaken a five-mile sponsored hike up the Himalayas.

Mr Schaske said he had tried talking to Cllr Few about the problem but without success.

"It got so bad last week I lost my temper with him," said Mr Schaske. "The police eventually had to be called."

However, the parish council has decided there is little they can do to resolve the situation.

"This is not the forum to debate grievances," said Cllr Rusbrooke.

Cllr Few's son Tom was at the meeting and said afterwards there had been a dispute with Mr Schaske over a separate issue and the family were well within their rights to decide who should have access to the bridleway.

County council spokesman Glen Thwaites said it was correct to describe the footpath as a permissive bridleway, which can still be used by pedestrians "and for any use which has been given specific permission by the landowners, which is us, in discussion with out tenant who works the land."

He added: "We granted permission for horse riders to use it, but it would be inappropriate to allow any kind of wheeled vehicle which would cause unacceptable damage and deterioration to the surface of the footpath to other users.

"We have invited Mr Schaske to write to us with his concerns, which he has so far failed to do.

"We would invite him again to put his concerns and requests in writing and we will consider them.

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