Animal sanctuary dream kept alive
By James HoreA WOMAN'S dream to open an animal sanctuary is set to go ahead after a judge ruled she should be granted a right of way to her land. Julie Menzies was forced to halt the venture, Willow Wildlife Animal Sanctuary, planned for a field at her Willow Farm in Kirby Cross after a gate was put up in April on a lane she uses for access.
By James Hore
A WOMAN'S dream to open an animal sanctuary is set to go ahead after a judge ruled she should be granted a right of way to her land.
Julie Menzies was forced to halt the venture, Willow Wildlife Animal Sanctuary, planned for a field at her Willow Farm in Kirby Cross after a gate was put up in April on a lane she uses for access.
But a district judge yesterday ordered Gary and Gillian Boot, the owners of the land on which the gate was put up, to unlock it.
He declared that regular land use over many years without permission of the landowner had led to a “prescriptive right of way”.
Mr and Mrs Boot, of Thorpe Road, Kirby Cross, claimed there had previously been a lock and chain in place on an earlier gate and it had been closed on a “regular basis”.
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Presenting his evidence at Colchester County Court yesterday, Mr Boot said Mrs Menzies did not have a prescriptive right of way, nor had she been able to provide written evidence showing she was allowed access.
But the court heard evidence from a number of witnesses and sworn statements declaring the lane was always “completely open” and had, historically, been used by tractors and people needing to get to the field.
Alice Fleet, a former owner of Willow Farm between 1982 and 1987, told the court that she “did not recollect having to ask permission for the gate to be opened or it being shut”.
Robin Garton, another previous owner of the farm, said: “There was never, ever, any gate there during the time we were there.”
He added the lane had been used constantly for access for ponies and for tractors.
The district judge ordered Mr and Mrs Boot to keep the gate open and to then move it to a position that would not prevent Mrs Menzies accessing her field.
Speaking after the hearing, Mrs Menzies said she was delighted with the decision.
“The project is ongoing and we will start right away and that is what we have wanted to do all the long,” she added.
“One of the things which is quite upsetting is that we have had to put money into legal fees which should have been used for the sanctuary and we have been locked out for five months.”
Also speaking after the hearing, Mr Boot said: “I am not surprised by the decision. This was a query about the access and now it has been sorted. We are happy to go along with everything from today.”