Vixen Tor - Access Denied

© stroppygob

The long-running dispute between a Dartmoor landowner and groups representing walkers and climbers over public access at Vixen Tor looks to be going the landowner's way. The BBC reports that an enquiry has decided there is no public right of way at the site, and a Devon County Council order to open a footpath there has been rescinded.

Vixen Tor, the not so friendly face of Dartmoor
© Am Fear Liath Mor, Aug 2006

Vixen Tor, formerly a popular beauty spot, was closed in 2003 when owner Mary Alford won an appeal to have the field containing the tor removed from CRoW Open Access Maps. She maintained there had never been an established right of way there. She claims to be concerned at possible liability issues should someone come a cropper on her land, though the many other landowners with a slice of Dartmoor seem not to find this an issue. Be that as it may, barbed wire and keep out signs were erected, and battle duly commenced.

The Ramblers, the British Mountaineering Council and Vixen Tor Action Group all see things rather differently. But so far their best efforts, including mass trespasses and the attempt to cite of Right to Roam legislation, have drawn a blank. Then in 2009 Devon County Council's Rights of Way Committee supported a move to re-open the tor.

In order for a public right of way to be established there would have to be evidence of uninterrupted public use at Vixen Tor for a 20-year period. The County Council's case for opening the site rested on the period between 1956 and 1976, but a local planning inspector has now ruled that there's insufficient evidence of free public use from that time.

Nearly 60 witnesses gave accounts to the enquiry of having walked at the Tor during the 1970s, and there's evidence of climbers having visited the site for many decades, but against this Mary Alford came up with documents suggesting periods in which paths hadn't been regularly used. Case closed?

No access 2  © Stroppy Gob - Banned User
No access 2
© Stroppy Gob - Banned User, Aug 2009

'We are obviously disappointed with the inspector's decision and saddened that there is no further access of any sort to this scenic setting' Tom Franklin, Ramblers Chief Executive, said today.

'Vixen Tor has a long history of visits by the public and an almost mystical status as a local landmark. It is a great shame that access to this iconic tor has been restricted.'

So where next for the access campaign?

The Ramblers have been actively campaigning for access to Vixen Tor for years, and today they've told us that this will not change. Despite the latest setback the organisation says it will continue to campaign for Vixen Tor to be free for all to enjoy.

'We are in the process of investigating other ways of restoring access to Vixen Tor' a spokesperson has told us. 'One of the options would be for people to encourage the National Park Authority to use their powers to act to restore access.'

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22 Sep, 2011
I cant help but feel that the kind of rhetoric used in this article is unhelpful. Whilst its clearly a great shame that access cannot be secured and recreational users will loose out becuase of it, the landowner has a right of appeal against the decision to an independant arbiter. The landowner used the correct process (notwithstanding previously potentially unlawful actions) and the planning inspector made a decsion based on the evidence presented to them. If the county council are aggrieved by the decision, they too have a right of judical review to the high court. At some stage, the matter will need to reach a conclusion and perhaps its time to come to terms with the fact that access may be lost for the duration of current landowners ownership?
22 Sep, 2011
This sucks, mega keen to get cragging at Vixen Tor, What was the point in the whole CRoW Act then???
22 Sep, 2011
This is ridiculous and any other cases like this are. How can something that is a natural beauty spot (never mind the climbing we want to do) be made a private access area??? Its nature its as simple as that!!! It should be without any question be open for all to visit walk climb etc etc. Im sure someone is going to turn round and say there back garden is part of nature bla bla and that they have the right to not want people to go in there but if you think that or want to say something like that just to be pedantic don't bother. From the age of 13 i've spent a lot of time on dartmoor taking part in ten tors for all of my senior school years. Now though climbing visit often when i'm home. i love the moors and cant understand why even if you owned a piece of land IE Vixen Tor why you you would want to take it away from everyone else! Its nature for crying out loud, case closed!!!
22 Sep, 2011
because some people are just ar$e holes
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