A dog walker is calling for access to bridleways and footpaths leading onto a West Bay cliff which were closed to the public four years ago.

Karl Rogers, of Symondsbury, has applied to Dorset Council to allow public rights of access to what he claims are recognised public routes in the area.

Notices forbidding public access to paths from residential streets to the cliff were put in place in 2020.

The paths include a route starting from West Bay Esplanade leading inland to Donkey Lane, Highlands End Holiday Park footpaths from the harbour to West Cliff Road and four further paths from this road to the South West Coast Path on the cliff.

Mr Rogers said: “You get out on the cliff at various vantage points and see some of the best views along the Jurassic coast ever imaginable. You can look all the way down the entire of Lyme Bay, it is phenomenal.”

Dorset Echo: Views from Westcliff which is accessed from four of the footpaths

The bridleway 400 yards up West Cliff Road was officially recognised on the Ordnance Survey map of the area until the 1970s, Mr Rogers said, when the road was closed to allow housing development to proceed safely.

Once the estate was completed, these orders were never rescinded, and the route wasn’t reinstated on the Ordnance Survey map.

Despite this, Mr Rogers says these routes have been used unchallenged by the public.

“Since the late 1970s, people have always used those routes. It’s the easiest access on to the cliff."

In 2020 gates were put up at the entrance to all the paths preventing public access.


Dorset Echo: New gates and signs preventing access to the bridleway and footpath

In February 2021, Mr Rogers submitted an application to the Dorset Council for these routes to be included on the definitive map and subsequently put on Ordnance Survey maps.

In a statement to Bridport & Lyme Regis News, West Cliff House Owners Association and Estate Trustees objects to having the definitive map modified and maintains signs forbidding public entry were displayed. 

"West Cliff Estate is privately owned and maintained and has been since it was developed 100 years ago in the 1920s.

"There has been an increase in dog fouling, litter and anti-social behaviour by non-resident pedestrians and cyclists traversing the estate.

"Yet we have proof that signs and gates informing the public that the estate is private were erected, replaced when necessary and increased, to deter use by the public over a 50 year period."

Dorset Council is currently seeking 'evidence of usage' to decide whether the rights of way should be maintained or removed.

A spokesperson said: "The routes referred to (including the roads) are privately owned and currently have no recorded public rights of access. Signs to this effect have been displayed on the routes in recent years. 

"Dorset Council is now investigating the applications and a public consultation process is underway which is due to finish on 10 February 2024. The consultation is inviting people to submit any evidence they may have relating to rights of access along the routes – either in support or opposing.

"Any evidence should be sent to Barbara Talbott at Dorset Council – barbara.talbott@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk"