‘We’ve been steamrolled!’ York neighbours locked in legal battle take dispute to the council
A York homeowner says her rights have been “steamrolled” after failing in her bid to erect a fence on a public highway following a council mistake.
Rachel Gilbert-Cornish and James Cornish believed a spur or road outside their home in Government House Road was a private driveway when they bought it in 2014.
The pair have long wanted to enclose their front garden and the road, but a planning application to change the spur into a private driveway and put up two-metre high gates was thrown out by councillors on Wednesday.
The contested status of the highway has resulted in court proceedings, including a legal battle with the pair’s neighbours and a failed judicial review.
Roads maintained at the public’s expense by the council are known as ‘adopted highways’. The council believed the entirety of the cul-de-sac was adopted in 1967 and treated it as such, but there was an error in the process due to it being a Ministry of Defence estate.
In 2021, the council asked residents if they wanted the estate road to be adopted, as long as a majority agreed. Eight out of the nine homes in the street did so, though the Gilbert-Cornishes were not aware of this as they were not living in their property at the time.
Government House Road
The matter is complicated by the fact that their next-door neighbours use the spur to access a garage at the end of the road.
Ms Gilbert-Cornish said more cars and pedestrians were now using the estate as it was no longer marked as a private road, with people mistakenly believing they can use it as a cut-through to the city centre.
She said: “It feels to us like our rights are being steamrolled by both an unlawful erected storage shed and misdirection and mistakes from council staff.
“Our amenity has been abused. At times we haven’t been able to get to our property or leave our property and we think that’s entirely unfair.”
Neighbour Adam Kraemer-Dent urged councillors to refuse the application.
He said: “I can tell you with absolute certainty that hardly any cars or people actually get as far down Government House Road without realising there’s no through road and turning round.
“It’s not dangerous or inconvenient and is, in fact, extremely private. I believe the real reason for this application with the erection of the gates is to deny our access to the garage at the end of the road.
“The whole of Government House Road is public highway – the proposed change of use and erection of gates would mean that I couldn’t use that section of the road to fully access my property.”
Cllr Jonny Crawshaw said his “gut reaction” was not to privatise public land, but expressed sympathy for the Gilbert-Cornishes position.
“I do see that in some respects, this has become a publicly adopted highway by default,” he said.
“I don’t think there would be any debate about whether we should be looking to remove the adopted highway status if it weren’t for the access to the garage.
“But I don’t think I can support closing it off.”