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Ipswich: Why has a metal gate led to Suffolk County Council’s chief executive being prosecuted in court?

PUBLISHED: 07:05 29 August 2014 | UPDATED: 07:05 29 August 2014

John Hunt and Peter Turtill, from Suffolk Rights of Way, are taking legal action to get the gate on Ship Launch Road in Ipswich reopened.

John Hunt and Peter Turtill, from Suffolk Rights of Way, are taking legal action to get the gate on Ship Launch Road in Ipswich reopened.

An innocuous metal gate has taken centre stage in a legal battle against the upper echelons of power in Suffolk.

The private prosecution brought by Peter Turtill against Suffolk County Council’s chief executive Deborah Cadman alleges the locked gate at the bottom of Ship Launch Road illegally obstructs a public right of way to Ipswich docks.

Having allegedly been barred from communicating with the council over the matter, Mr Turtill told magistrates in Ipswich on Tuesday that pursuing legal action against Ms Cadman was the only option he had left.

“They’ve refused to allow me to communicate with them,” he said.

“Any letter will be torn up, any telephone call will be hung up so the only option I have is to take Deborah Cadman to court.”

Marcus Crosskell, representing Ms Cadman, who did not attend the hearing, told magistrates the land in question was not owned by 
the council and was not designated as a public highway. “There’s a whole host of reasons in point of law and in point of fact why this case is wholly without merit,” he said.

He added that Mr Turtill had already made a number of unsuccessful legal challenges against the council and had been subject to a restraining order barring him from taking High Court action against the authority.

While acknowledging one of his challenges had failed, Mr Turtill said others against the council had succeeded.

“To say I lost one is true but I’ve also won three and I’ll win this one too,” he said. Mr Turtill admits the land is private, however he insists public rights of way still apply and claims SCC has a statutory obligation to ensure they are maintained.

Magistrates referred the case to a district judge on December 8, allowing the defence time to study Mr Turtill’s 200-page legal bundle of case history dating back to 1805.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Turtill, who has lived in Ipswich all his life, said: “This is my home and I want to protect it for other people so they can enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed it.

“I had a wonderful time growing up in this town 
but now all the lovely spaces are being fenced off or gated.”

A spokesman for the council said: “The gate in question is on privately owned land. This is not a public highway, and is nothing to do with Suffolk County Council. In December 2010 there was public inquiry into the highways around the Ipswich docks. The inspector found that there was not a highway along this route.”

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