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SAS soldier David Wood and Lib Dem peer Lord Sharman take Wiltshire land dispute to High Court

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: March 21, 2014

  • Edward Waddington, who bought the land from Lib Dem peer Lord Sharman, arrives at the High Court in Bristol

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A decorated SAS hero and a Liberal Democrat peer are embroiled in 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, believes his neighbour has no claim over the strip and has erected locked gates to keep him out. He also claims that riders from the livery centre, which was created by Mr Wood, are disturbing game birds he keeps and could put an end to a renowned shoot he hosts annually.

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

The dispute is now before the High Court, sitting in Bristol, where a judge heard that Mr Wood believed the right of way came as part of buying his home.

Mr Wood told the court: "I want my access uninterrupted. I have a right of way granted to me by my predecessor which gave me access to those areas."

Mr Wood added: "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 would continue to protect his rights."

The court heard how the land in question, near Salisbury, was put up for sale in 1998 for a total of £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 claims Manor Farm had access rights to nearby bridleways – despite the fact he had to cross his neighbour's land to reach them.

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. When I wanted to deepen a trench for flood defences [on his land] I didn't feel the need to go to him to ask. Using the route was convenient for me and I did it from time to time."

In 2009 Lord Sharman sold his property, alongside the presumed rights, to Mr Wood, 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.

In a letter sent to Mr Wood's solicitors, he wrote: "Following the meeting with your client I took advice from my solicitor and the land in which your client has constructed his new track appears to belong to me."

When Mr Wood disputed this, the farmer began to build gates and warned the former soldier he would continue to protect his land.

The court heard Mr Waddington claims riders from the Manor Farm Livery could put an end to the famous Teffont Magna shoot he has spent 15 years creating. He believes sportsmen, paying nearly £1,000 a day to shoot partridge and pheasant on his land, would be forced to hold fire every time a horse rode by.

The four-day court case in front of Mr Justice Morgan is expected to end today.

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