Madonna lawyers question maps
LAWYERS representing the singer Madonna in her court action to keep ramblers from her country retreat questioned the legality of the land classification process at a public planning meeting.
The singer and her film director husband, Guy Ritchie, claim that part of their 1,200-acre Ashcombe House estate, on the Wiltshire-Dorset border, has been marked inaccurately on maps as open country and the public should not be allowed access.
The Countryside Agency, which is mapping areas to implement the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000, has classified about 100 acres of the estate as downland.
That means the public will have the right to walk over any land marked on maps as open country - mountain, moor, heath, or down - or registered common land, once the act is in force.
But Mr & Mrs G Ritchie, as the celebrity couple are listed in case papers, are appealing against the agency’s decision at the hearing in the Royal Chase Hotel in Shaftesbury, Dorset. David Elvin, QC, representing them, said yesterday that the methodology used by the agency to classify grassland was incomplete.
He said: "It (the methodology) doesn’t have the force of law. If you apply only the methodology, you are not necessarily acting lawfully."
Chris Smith, an appeals adviser for the agency, told the inquiry: "We think that’s (the methodology) the sole piece of information that should be used to map open country."
Madonna and Ritchie did not attend the second day of the inquiry. She is preparing for her world tour which starts in Los Angeles on 24 May.
Earlier, Stephen Pasterfield, representing the Countryside Agency, advised inspector David Pinner, who is chairing the inquiry, to adopt a "simple, commonsense approach".
"There is no restriction or exception specifically to prevent public access on to access land owned by those who ... become famous and who therefore find their privacy is liable to be infringed beyond that which is normal," he said.
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