A village footpath is at the centre of a costly row between homeowners and walkers.
A public inquiry is being launched today to decide whether a footpath which runs through two gardens should be available for the public.
The argument between Whitchurch Parish Council and two homeowners in Little London has been ongoing since 2010, with the authority arguing that the path has been used by walkers for more than 20 years.
But one of the homeowners, Marcus Vallance, says the path at the bottom of his garden should never have been there.
Mr Vallance, who currently has two public footpaths in his garden, said: “The houses were originally built in the 1970s, over a public footpath. As a result, the path was moved.
“This path should have never been on the map. Now, people who own these houses have been pushed into providing a footpath.
“I hired an expert witness, which is basically a footpath consultant, to look into it, and the footpath shouldn’t even be here.
“Looking back to the 1800s, it should be in The Firs, a manor house not far from here.
“It could never have been here, as this house was a garage in World War Two, and then a paintshop.
“This has cost us thousands already. We and our neighbours think it’s ridiculous.
“Yes, we chose to buy a house with two footpaths, but when we found out they shouldn’t even be there, we don’t see why they should remain.
“I’m not against public footpaths at all, I look after the local footpaths, and I frequently use them to walk my dog. I have nothing against walkers.”
The dispute was sparked when the residents closed off access to the route back in 2008 with no advance warning, according to the parish council.
In March 2009 the parish council submitted an application to have the route added to the definitive map as a public footpath as it has been used by villagers for more than 20 years, it says.
This was considered by the county council rights of way committee in July 2010 and was given the green light. The landowners then appealed the decision, which by law means a public inquiry must be called.
The inquiry, to be held by the national planning inspectorate,is taking place today (Wednesday) at Whitchurch Church Hall in White Horse Lane from 10am.