A developer has vowed to fight moves to make him remove an equestrian sand school blocking a path leading to the famous Pooh Sticks Bridge immortalised by author AA Milne.

The local council says equestrian centre owner Ben Van Praagh has breached the terms of the original planning permission, and the sand school must be taken up.

Pooh Sticks Bridge, in Ashdown Forest, near Hartfield, East Sussex, is the setting for the game played by Christopher Robin’s fictional animal friends Pooh and Piglet in the classic tale The House at Pooh Corner.

Mr Van Praagh runs an equestrian centre and stud at Faircote Hall, on the route to the path leading to the bridge. The site is in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Open Spaces Society (OSS) is backing Hartfield Parish Council, which is supporting the enforcement action by Wealden District Council.

OSS general secretary Kate Ashbrook said: “Mr Van Praagh obtained planning consent for a much smaller sand school, on a different alignment, but he ignored that and went ahead with a larger one across the footpath.  

“The path was obstructed, until East Sussex County Council, the highway authority, intervened. Now Mr Van Praagh is talking about moving the footpath on to an inferior route.

“We have written to the Planning Inspectorate, urging it to reject the appeal so that Wealden Council may take the necessary enforcement action. The development is an eyesore in this rural area, creating a suburban excrescence which is visible over a wide area.

“We also consider that the proposed footpath diversion would put it on an inferior, less direct, route.

“This is a hugely popular path, linking with the route to Pooh Sticks Bridge, where Pooh, Piglet and the other animals played Pooh Sticks in AA Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner. We shall oppose any attempts to move this important path.”

Mr Van Praagh claims disabled children would lose out if the enforcement action goes ahead.

He told his local newspaper, the East Grinstead Courier: “This is a very expensive, beautiful arena with a state of the art surface.

“I am surprised Wealden District Council would actually enforce this, as a retrospective planning application has been submitted. If the enforcement goes through, it will affect Riding for the Disabled.

“We are going to take this all the way. We have been here 20 years and I have put a lot of money into it.”

Mr Van Praagh has been given two months to remove the obstruction.