LAND campaigners have lost a 12-year battle over a historic patch of land.
Property developer Mohammed Ajaib has been in dispute with locals in Jesmond Dene since 2000.
The Friends of Jesmond Dene claimed Mr Ajaib’s land, known locally as Donkey Field, contained public footpaths and should be left open to walkers.
Newcastle City Council refused an initial application for public right of way to be acknowledged, but an inspector from the Lands Tribunal overturned the decision last year.
After a final appeal, the campaigners and representatives for Mr Ajaib attended a two-day public inquiry at Newcastle Civic Centre in August.
A representative from the Planning Inspectorate heard evidence from both sides and visited the site.
Now Inspector Michael Lowe, who was appointed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has announced his decision in favour of Mr Ajaib.
The judgment referred to a recent High Court dispute, the Kotegaonkar case, which stated that an essential characteristic of a highway is that it must connect to another public highway or to a place to which the public have right of access.
Mr Lowe said the footpaths in Donkey Field did not have this characteristic.
The Friends of Jesmond Dene’s application relied on evidence it said showed local walkers had been using four footpaths since as far back as 1941.
However, Mr Lowe questioned this in his report.
“In my view, the necessary evidence of 20 years’ use ‘as of right’ during the 20-year period before the application was made in October 2000 was not sufficiently established ... there is cogent evidence that before 1982 the field was used for the keeping of stock and that the field was fenced,” he said.
“I have no doubt that the fence was not wholly effective in preventing public access and that some members of the public could climb between or step over the stands of barbed wire.
“However, in my view such a fence meant that access was by force and, together with other actions, was a clear indication by the landowner that there was no intention to dedicate a public footpath.”
Donald McEwan, chairman of the Friends of Jesmond Dene, said: “Everyone concerned in the matter over the last 12 years is very disappointed.
“It turned out that we haven’t won but we had to try. It has taken 12 years of endeavour.”
Robert Wooster, former chairman of the Friends of Jesmond Dene, who led the campaign, said: “We worked long and hard and we did have a good case.
“We are disappointed but we did everything we could do and we couldn’t have wished for better support from members of the public and friends of the Dene.”
Mr Ajaib did not wish to comment.