Updated November 2019


In 2016 the land owner of land to the north east of the old racecourse buildings, Mr Cheyney, diverted the wide bridleway up to the Downs that had been in use for many years to a narrow strip to the north east of its then route, right next to the boundary of his land.  People were outraged and many felt that they were being corralled into a small space.

As the bridleway that had been in use was not on the legal rights of way map it was necessary to apply to have it added to that map, on the route, and to the width, that it had previously been. I made the application at the end of 2016.

These applications take a long time, but by the beginning of 2018  I was beginning to feel that it was taking too long. So I applied to the planning inspectorate for a direction, to force East Sussex Council to decide on the application.  They made a direction that the council should decide what to do by early this year.

The council duly decided to make an order to put the bridleway on the map earlier this year.  But their decision was worded in such an odd way that it was almost impossible to work out what they had decided.

Unfortunately deciding to make an order is not the same as making one, and the council have not yet made an order.  When I first approached them to see when they were going to do this they said they were consulting with the landowners in the area with a view to making an order to add the bridleway and then divert it to the edge of Mr Cheney’s land, albeit at a width of 6-8 metres rather than the current 3.  But they did not do this.

Now they tell me that they are discussing with the landowners with a view to the landowners voluntarily dedicating a route substantially along the route that  has been applied for.  This would be a legal right of way, but we do not know the exact route or the width.

The whole process goes like this:

  • An application is made to add a route to the rights of way map
  • The council decides whether or not to make an order to add the route to the map.
  • If it refuses, the applicant can appeal, but if it agrees it then makes an order to add the route.
  • This does not add the route to the map because the council has to give people 6 weeks to object.
  • If no one objects the order is confirmed and the route is added to the map, but if anyone objects and does not withdraw their objection, the matter has to be referred to the planning inspectorate for a final decision.

We are at stage 2.  It is not proposed to lean on the council too hard at the moment, because they have a lot of applications to deal with and, if they do agree something acceptable with the landowners the matter will go through quite quickly, but if you wish to complain about the time it is taking  you can contact the council at or your local county council member, Ruth O’keeffe.


 You may also be aware that, to the south of the bridleway above, there are some issues with another landowner, Mr Ffitch-Heyes, who attempted to divert his part of the bridleway to a track he had made next to the gallops.  This attempt was defeated. During the course of the application, it was discovered that the legal route of the bridleway here went, not along the route that people had been using for years, but through the landowner’s yard.  He has now applied to divert the legal route to the route that everyone has been using for years.  The Open Spaces Society is not going to object to this because a width of 5 metres has been specified.

The order has not yet been published.


A few years ago, workers on behalf of owner Mrs Ffitch-Heyes, erected a whole load of fencing and laid a surfaced track next to Lewes old racecourse.  In March of this year a planning inspector ruled that planning permission should not be given for either the fencing or the road.

The owner argued that this decision did not include the track and asked the planning inspectorate to consider the issue again.  However In October the planning inspector confirmed the previous decision that the track should be removed, giving the owner four months to do this. This presumably applies to the fencing too.

If the owner does not carry out the work by February the National Park can serve an enforcement notice or remove the work itself and charge the owner.


The bridleway from Lewes Prison to the Old racecourse has caused users problems for years. It has been narrow, overgrown and rutted.  Last year the owner, Mrs Ffitch Heyes, started to widen and flatten it. It was not surfaced. You might feel that this was a good thing, but there were suspicions that the owner wanted to drive vehicles up and down it and no planning permission had been applied for.

The National Park served and enforcement notice in in March to reinstate the bridleway to its original state.  The National Park also issued a notice to owner Mrs Ffitch-Heyes to stop extending the widening of the bridleway down to the prison. But in October of this year a planning inspector ruled that the existing work should be given planning permission.  It is not known whether or not this means that it is possible for the landowner to extend the widening  down to the prison.


There have been a number of reports of horse riders using the footpath that runs round the inside of the racecourse.  This is not legal.  If you see this happening please report it to the ESCC rights of way team at  The horses are making a mess of the path, particularly in winter.  However the footpath that runs down into valley from the racecourse appears to have private rights for some horse riders to use it.  You can still report any problems with the surface to the rights of way team.


Aa number of other applications for rights of way in Lewes have been made.

  • Footpath through the garages from Grange Road to the Course . Application made by the Ramblers Association. Landowners Lewes council have agreed to dedicate the route as a right of way. The order is awaited.
  • Bridleway, Western end of Love Lane, Winterbourne. Application made by the Ramblers Association. Landowners the Highways Agency have agreed to dedicate the route.  The order is awaited.
  • Cut through from Love Lane in Winterbourne, alongside the railway, to the bridleway from Winterbourne to Hope in the valley. Application made by the Ramblers Association. Landowners Network Rail have agreed to dedicate the route and their letter confirming this is awaited.
  • Byway from Southover via Rise Farm to Iford. Application made by the Ramblers Association. Landowner has agreed to dedicate the route as a bridleway if funding for gates and fencing can be found. Funding sources being investigated.
  • Footpath through Clevedown Flats to the Brighton Road. Application made by the Ramblers Association. The council have made an order to add this route to the map.  The time objections has expired but it is believed that some objections were made.  The council may try to persuade the objectors to withdraw or they may forward the case to the Planning Inspectorate.
  • Applications for a byway in Spences Lane, a footpath from DeMontfort Road and a number of routes around the Offham pits are all in the system. These routes are all walkable at the moment.
  • A footpath at the rear of Waldshut Road,Landport, applied for by local residents has been added to the rights of way map.
  • Roughly 20 other applications to add rights of way to the map have been made by members of the Don’t Lose Your Way group in East Sussex, and around 20 more have been made by other people.  Contact travelman if you are interested in helping with this kind of work. You can see all the applications here

Date of article  20/8/19