A FARMER is to appeal against a decision to change a public footpath crossing his land to a bridleway.

Derek Bayles of Osmond Flatt Farm, Lartington, has said information in a report to councillors about re-classifying the right of way was biased in favour of riders.

However, horse riders said they have used the path for more than 20 years and allowing them to use it would avoid a dangerous stretch of road.

This week, a meeting of Durham County Council's highways committee unanimously agreed to modify the right of way, which stretches from Osmond Flatt Farm to The Rigg, in Lartington, to a bridleway.

Alan Ayers from the British Horse Society said: "This is a vital link, forming part of a rather pleasant network of bridleways in this part of Teesdale.

"It also has the advantage of avoiding quite a hazardous bend in Lartington where there's no speed limit."

The meeting, held at Cotherstone Village Hall following a site visit, was attended by several residents.

Members heard that if the path was to be reclassified, there would have to be evidence to suggest there had been a tradition of horses using the route.

Circulated with the report to councillors were several signed statements testifying that until No Horses signs were put up in 1998, the right of way had regularly been used by riders.

However, Mr Bayles, who has lived at Osmond Flatt Farm all his life, disputed the claims and said he had never seen some of the riders who claimed to have used the path on his land.

He said: "The amount of time I spend on the land I feel I would have seen them

"I feel it's a very one-sided report.

"There has been no challenge to the statements made by the riders but everything the landowners have said has been challenged.

"Although the decision's what I expected, I will be appealing against it.

Other landowners including Lartington Estates and Keith Dent of The Rigg, Lartington, objected to the proposal.

Lartington Parish Council and the Ramblers' Association had also asked for the route to remain as a footpath.