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Guildford Council Closed Pirbright Bridleway Illegally During Dump Operation

Published on: 7 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 10 Aug, 2021

Google Maps satellite view showing the unauthorised dump at Stoney Castle and the bridleway that was illegally closed by GBC.

A bridleway was illegally closed and those wishing to use it threatened with physical removal during Guildford Borough Council’s closure operation at the unauthorised Stoney Castle dump in Pirbright.

GBC expected the Ministry of Defence, over whose land the bridleway runs, alongside the Army’s Stoney Castle Range and danger area,  to take action to officially close the right of way but this was not done.

A security man/doghandler illegally policing access to the bridleway.

The bailiff supervising access at the site, who gave his name as Nick Perrin, informed those wishing to use the bridleway, including ejected occupants of the site and news reporters, that the bridleway had been closed by the MoD.

On the day the operation commenced Mr Perrin threatened Dragon reporter Hugh Coakley with physical force if he did not leave, even though a GBC’s communication officer suggested he used the bridleway to take photos.

Later in the operation, the bailiff threatened to tow away the car of Dragon editor Martin Giles even as he was on the phone to GBC checking the bridleway’s status. At the time, GBC said that the bridleway had been officially closed, advice that was later admitted to have been wrong.

A police sign displayed by the bridleway entrance. The partially furled banner said: “ROAD CLOSED”. It is not known how the security contractors obtained the sign.

Intially, in response to questions about the closure, GBC said: “The Ministry of Defence closed the land that they owned, as is their right…” Then, when questioned further: “We have nothing further to add to our previous statements and will not be commenting further in relation to this issue.”

But yesterday a spokesperson for GBC said: “Due to some confusion in communication between agencies, it was believed the bridleway could be closed. Whilst this was clearly a mistake, the emphasis was placed on the health and safety of the public, our staff and the contractors, it was necessary to restrict access during certain times as significant amounts of non-waste items, cars, caravans and tyres were being removed from the site.

“Our apologies if any members of the public were adversely affected by this situation but trust they will understand the overriding safety concern.”

Dragon editor Martin Giles responded: “The illegal closure of a public right of way by GBC was a serious and unprofessional error aggravated by the unnecessarily aggressive behaviour of the site bailiff who GBC failed to control.

“Most will welcome the action by GBC to deal with the unauthorised dump at Pirbright, especially as it is suspected local waterways might have been contaminated, but aspects of GBC’s planning were poor. Not only had they failed to ensure they were acting legally in the closure of the bridleway the level of secrecy over their operation was excessive and led to poor communications.”

“But it is good that the council has admitted their error and apologised. Hopefully, they will be prepared to learn from the mistake.”

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test 3 Responses to Guildford Council Closed Pirbright Bridleway Illegally During Dump Operation

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    August 7, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    It’s interesting that Martin Giles was able to get a response to a phone call to GBC. Despite social media announcements that Millmead is ‘Open’, there are many complaints on Twitter and Facebook that phones just ring continuously for over an hour with no reply. Email auto response still mentions possible COVID delays, but hasn’t GBC a management team to prioritise responses and resources?

    It’s not just queries about missed bin collections. Phone calls regarding payments of rent and council tax payments, and yes, rude bailiffs, despite registered payment plans. Strangely, there is a better response from letters to the Collection Agency than Millmead. Three letters to Finance Department during July unanswered. I hoped it would be better than last year with letter replies of 10 to 12 weeks.

    Even the local councillor can’t get an explanation.

  2. John Strugnell Reply

    August 8, 2021 at 12:34 pm

    Looking at this story from the outside I cannot help think that in common with many other aspects of “The Media” it does not take long for all the comment gets diverted from the main “news”, ie an illegal dump, and then drifts over into other areas of the need to grumble or complain.

    A bit of over-reaction on this story I think. No doubt I will be admonished for my view.

    • Martin Elliott Reply

      August 8, 2021 at 10:42 pm

      Perhaps because most commentators see beyond the immediate story to the deeper, root problems that have allowed a story to become important enough to report.

      Of course, the authorities can do a few things to solve the current situation, but most of the commentary is why the authorities couldn’t control the situation long before it got out of hand, and ensure that the risk of it happening again is as low as possible.

      It’s a common problem of a poor management system.

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