THE occupier of Hampton Mill insists access to public footpaths has been restored but warns ongoing problems caused by a minority could jeopardise it.

Controversy has been rife for months over the path being blocked off by occupier Frances Payne who had permission from Worcestershire County Council to shut for maintenance work until June 4.

Residents were up in arms over other accesses to the beauty spot being blocked off by barbed wire fencing with Mrs Payne citing “constant” problems such as people taking illegal substances, assault, theft and vandalism.

Reports on social media that the new gate, installed in front of the old wooden gate, had shut off the path were scotched by fellow residents.

“It is open,” said Mrs Payne.

“The wooden gate is still there but it was broken, someone smashed the gate post so we could no longer use it.”

She said the county council had finally “backed down” over installing kissing gates – hinged gates that swing between two enclosed shutting posts – to protect livestock that she now has on the mill’s land but only on the opposite side to the entrance accessed from Cheltenham Road, resulting in her installing the metal gate.

“I did ask the council for a kissing gate on the road because someone deliberately let out my sheep the other day and I am due to talk to the police about that,” added Mrs Payne.

“They very nearly got onto Cheltenham Road and could have killed someone if they ran out in front of a car.”

She confirmed “there are no works planned” that would close the path again but that there were “legal matters being addressed in the background”.

“I know someone is trying to deal with things robustly,” said Mrs Payne.

“Unfortunately, they are breaking the law by doing that so there is trouble in the background that my lawyer is dealing with.”

Asked whether those issues could affect whether the path is kept open, Mrs Payne replied: “100 per cent.”

Asked to elaborate on the problem, Mrs Payne said: “Someone is stirring up landowners and neighbours, they are causing trouble.”

She added: “I am still getting grief. People are leaving lit barbecues everywhere in countryside, people letting my sheep out, I am still getting people smashing gates and fencing and trespassers.

“With some people it is the same old story. It is a shame because 95 per cent of people were polite, headed through with their dogs on a lead and that was good, it is just the other five per cent.”