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Judge finds against former SAS officer Former Lieutenant Colonel David Wood

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 13, 2014

By Jeff Wells

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A decorated SAS hero faces a huge legal bill after losing a bitter High Court battle with a landowner – over access rights to a muddy strip of land.

Former Lieutenant Colonel David Wood, 52, claims he was granted a right of way over the track when he bought his £3.25 million country home from Lord Sharman four years ago.

The 500-yard strip allows horse riders using his commercial livery yard to reach a nearby bridleway where they can hack over the Wiltshire countryside.

But the owner of the land, Edward Waddington, 46, believed his neighbour had no claim over the strip and erected locked gates to keep him out. He also claimed riders from the livery centre, created by Mr Wood, are disturbing game birds he keeps and could put an end to a renowned shoot he hosts annually.

The move forced Mr Wood to re-direct horse riders across muddy fields from the stables he built around his home, and was unable to drive vehicles to reach a vital road which runs alongside the properties.

The dispute, which saw the Lib Dem peer support Mr Wood throughout, reached the High Court, sitting in Bristol, where a judge has now ruled in favour of Mr Waddington.

It is believed Mr Wood now faces a legal bill running into the hundreds of thousands following the judgment.

Mr Waddington said yesterday: "I am delighted that the court has confirmed that Mr Wood, and Lord Sharman before him, had no right of way over my land that would have connected the riding school directly to the bridleways.

"It was a shame that Mr Wood chose to pursue this case at great expense through the courts, both emotionally and financially, when our property deeds clearly show that the land in question is mine and no one has the right to cross it or to use my personal drive for vehicular livery traffic."

The court heard how the land in question near Salisbury, was originally put up for sale in 1998 for £7 million.

But when a sale fell through it was separated into lots, three of which were bought by Lord Sharman and turned into his home, the 35-acre Manor Farm. The fourth parcel of land was snapped up by Mr Waddington, who moved into the property included in the sale.

Lord Sharman claimed Manor Farm had access rights to nearby bridleways – despite the fact he had to cross his neighbour's land to reach them. During the four-day hearing in March, he told the court: "I was clear during the whole time I was there I enjoyed a right of access at all times for all purposes. Mr Waddington and I didn't discuss boundaries and details at any time, we had a good relationship, we got on."

Mr Wood said: "I want my access uninterrupted. I have a right of way granted to me by my predecessor which required me access to those areas.

"Mr Waddington told me it was his right to put the gates on the lane and he was 'forced to take defensive action'. He said he wanted to make it absolutely clear that he 'will continue to protect my rights'."

In 2009 Lord Sharman sold his property, alongside the presumed rights, to Mr Wood and his wife Philippa, who immediately began building a menage on the stables he had been left.

But Mr Waddington took immediate exception to the new construction, complaining about its size and the noise it would generate.

"I don't object to horses disturbing my shoot," he told the court.

"I would like to try and keep the horses down to a sensible number but obviously there are horses in the village and this new menage is clearly a growing business.

"Had there been an established livery or equestrian centre I would not have considered buying, there was no mention of horses during negotiations. Technically Lord Sharman was trespassing when he drove his vehicles down that lane but we have always got on and there has never been an issue."

The dispute continued and in January 2012 the disgruntled neighbour claimed builders had altered his land to make way for the building.

When Mr Wood disputed this, the farmer began to build gates and warned the former soldier he would "continue to protect my land". Mr Wood made his fortune after a career in the SAS by setting up a defence consultancy which provided training services and government security for states in the Middle East.

Speaking after the judgment Mr Waddington added: "The shoot here at Teffont Magna is long-established and successful. It is an important commercial ingredient in my farming business. It would have been highly detrimental to the business if there was to be a constant stream of novice riders from Mr Wood's stables and riding school."

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