Lord Cowdray's half brother resolves 12-year battle over a footpath at Tillington

Lord Cowdray's half-brother, the Hon Charles Pearson, has won a 12-year 'battle of the byways' with rights-of-way groups to divert a public footpath at Tillington.

The lengthy battle has centred on Pitshill, his beautiful but empty 18th-century eight-bedroomed Palladian mansion built by the Mitford family.

Mr Pearson appealed, for the second time, to government planning inspector Peter Millman in June this year at a public inquiry. It was after Defra announced a review of its criteria for diverting rights of way.

Mr Millman had already ruled against him once, at an earlier public inquiry in 2006.

But now the inspector has made a U-turn and confirmed four orders to divert the footpath around Pitshill.

A delighted Mr Pearson said it had been 'a very long process' to reach the decision which from the start had been 'the most practical solution and in the best interests of the house, the public and my family'.

He bought Pitshill for 3.5m in 1997 because he fell in love with it as a child and vowed to bring up his family there.

But although he has kept the central heating running in the 30ft high rooms to stop decay, Mr Pearson – who owns the 57,000-acre Dunecht Estate in Aberdeenshire – has never moved in with his polo-playing wife Lila and children Carinthia and George because of a row over diverting a bridleway known as The Cutting.

He has always claimed the diversion, which he has already put in place, is necessary on health-and-safety grounds because lorries using the old route when he starts a 7m renovation project will endanger walkers and riders.

Opponents claimed he just wanted it moved further away from the house to stop members of the public getting too close.

Before the latest inquiry Mr Pearson said: "Our children were aged two and four when we bought the house and we were hoping to be able to bring them up here – but sadly that has not happened because of the problems we have had to face with access and rights of way.

"Carinthia is now 15 and George 13 and they have never been able to enjoy the place. They understand the problems and naturally would have liked to live here – but 12 years on I'm continuing for the sake of the next generation as much as I am for myself."

The row split the community of Tillington and although the parish council originally voted in favour of the diversion, it caused a rift among councillors. Chichester District Council also voted in favour.

But West Sussex County Council and the Ramblers Association were opposed.

Parish council chairman Hugh Rolfe said : "I am relieved and glad it's all over. It was a divisive issue and whatever the decision it was bound to displease some people.

"Now the decision is made and as far as I am concerned we have to look forward and hope Pitshill will be restored and we can all enjoy the nice resurrected house."

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