hit tracker Our lottery-winner neighbour blocked us from using path near his huge mansion – he thinks he can do whatever he wants – Newsmix.pics

Our lottery-winner neighbour blocked us from using path near his huge mansion – he thinks he can do whatever he wants

NEIGHBOURS of a lotto winner have told how he tried to block them from using a public path near his huge mansion.

Wealthy businessman Mark Skuse, 53, has been fined £8,000 for obstructing the right of way that has been popular with hikers and dog walkers for years.

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The public footpath that runs through Mr Skuse’s property[/caption]

Skuse was prosecuted by South Gloucestershire Council for the willful obstruction of a public right of way
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Dog walker Emily Batchford, 26, uses the path everyday[/caption]

Mark bought his £1.25m property in Lower Morton, near Thornbury, Gloucestershire, three years ago

Mark, who scooped £120,000 with his wife Wendy in the postcode lottery two years ago, put up fencing and signage but was ordered by South Gloucestershire Council in May last year to reopen the path.

But he ignored the pleas and was summoned to appear at Bristol Magistrates Court last week where he was found guilty of obstructing the public right of way, contrary to Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980.

The landowner from Lower Morton, near Thornbury, south Gloucestershire, was handed a £5,000 fine, along with £1,155.60 in costs and a £2,000 victim surcharge.

Neighbours who use the path said his actions were wrong and the council said they hoped the legal action taken against him would act as a warning to others.

Max Tudor, 32, a professional dog walker from Thornbury, Gloucestershire, said he uses the footpaths around the area on a daily basis.

He said: “I see it all the time in my line of work and I’m glad that the courts have come down hard on this person.

“There’s nothing more annoying than walking down a public footpath and finding your way blocked.

“It’s just totally irresponsible by the landowners and I report it every time I come across it.

“These people think that because they live out in the countryside they can do whatever they want and it’s just unfair on those who enjoy using the public footpath network in this area.”

Another walker Emily Batchford, 26, from Morton, South Gloucestershire, was pleased the court had hit the land-owner hard in the pocket.


She said: “It is not right that people can just block off these paths just because they want privacy.

“I admit that this is a two-way thing and those using the public footpaths have a responsibility to make sure that their dogs are behaving.

“But for someone to arbitrarily take the law into their own hands is not on – and fair play to the council for taking action against this man.”

Retired council worker Tony Pierce, 68, from Thornbury, South Gloucestershire said he had little sympathy with the landowner.

A regular walker who uses the footpath several times a week said: “I’m afraid it’s a case of someone with too much money than sense.

“This is not a major problem but he has turned it into one because he thinks he is beyond the law – unfortunately he found out the costly way that he isn’t.”

Mark claims he only blocked off the public footpath after incidents threatening his home occurred last summer
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Mark blocked a wooden stile on a public footpath to try to top dogs jumping in his garden[/caption]

Neighbour Trevor Hellen, 79, said although he sympathised with Mark’s situation, he dismissed the idea that you can shut down a public footpath.

He claimed only “two or three dozen” hikers used the footpath last summer.

He added: “We would be furious if we were in Mark’s position. I can see his point, but he cannot stop the footpath.

“I feel sorry for him. He’s a very nice man. I am a walker myself and I would hate for ancient footpaths to be closed for no good reasons.”

Another resident, Linda Burkill, 82, added: “He should not have shut them off. It’s quite a nice walk going through the fields.”

LEGAL FIGHT

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 the council said this was ignored and no attempt was made at any time to engage with the council regarding the offences.

The council said it was then 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.”

It is not right that people can just block off these paths just because they want privacy.


Walker Emily Batchford

Mark and his wife Wendy, who have eight children, previously hit the headlines after they won big on the Postcode Lottery in July 2022 – because just three people living in the BS35 1LD postcode play the People’s Postcode Lottery – and each winning ticket got £30,000.

So, while the third player living in the small hamlet, who chose to remain anonymous, got £30,000, because Mark and Wendy had two tickets each, they won four times over – and are now £120,000 richer.

They now live in a mansion that is concealed behind a black and gold electric gate, with statues on either side of the front door.

The expansive garden has a large patio with a variety of statues and a swimming pool – which is in the process of being refilled ahead of the summer.

Speaking after the case, Mark hit out at the legal action taken against him by the council – and claimed he was forced to restrict access and take action after a series of attempted thefts and unruly pooches that took over his garden.

‘SEVEN INCIDENTS’

Mark who bought the home for £1.25million three years ago, claimed that he only blocked off the public footpath after “around seven” incidents threatening his home occurred last summer.

At its nearest point, the distance between the path and Mark’s house is around 50 metres.

He claims he’s had to spend £60,000 to £70,000 on security measures to defend his land – which have included two guard dogs, CCTV cameras and electric gates – and says blocking the path was his last resort.

Right of way on public footpaths

It is a criminal offence, under section 137 of the Highways Act 1980, to obstruct the whole or part of the width of a public path.

An obstructed path is one where something is lying (or has been placed) across the path which physically prevents you from using that part of the path.

Obstructions may include barbed wire on the top rail of a stile; or rubbish dumped on, or a garden boundary extended over, a right of way.

Problems affecting rights of way need to be reported to the highway authority, this would be the county council in England and Wales and the London Borough Council in the capital.

Highway Authorities have duties and powers to keep highways maintained, open and available for use.

The actions that an authority can take include service of a notice on the person causing the offence; telling him or her what action the authority intends taking with powers to recover their costs; and, where necessary, taking the potential offender to the Magistrates’ Court for an order to remove the issue.

He said people have used the footpath to access his property and put his family’s safety at risk.

He added: “I had problems with people coming up at night with the intention of theft. We have had damage from attempted thefts.

“The path is an easy way for criminals to come up.

“But if you call the police, it’s forty minutes before anyone comes out”. My wife and I have eight kids, seven grandkids.

“In the summer, we all congregate out the back. We’ve got a pool, BBQ, you get people walking by. They have a dog off the lead. The dog is then running, interacting with us. That’s not really on.

“Dogs come into the swimming pool, have a c**p in the garden. I’ve had a dog jump in the swimming pool while the grandkids are in there. Is that acceptable?”

He claimed in July 2023 his daughter came in saying she could hear noises with people trying to break into the motorhome.

When Mark accosted them, they ran away, he claims.

He said the whole process cost him £16,000 because of the £8,000 legal bill he had to foot.

And he claimed he felt let down by the council’s unwillingness to work with him directly.

He said: “Why don’t they come out and talk to you? They just try and get a big stick out and batter you.”

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.

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Dog walker Max Tudor, 32, blasted Mr Skuse[/caption]

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