Campaigners are urging action against a riding arena built across a path near the famous Pooh Sticks Bridge.

Hartfield landowner Ben Van Praagh built the riding paddock across the right of way in East Sussex and has now withdrawn a retrospective application for planning permission. However, he is appealing against the local council’s action to restore the footpath.

A planning inspector will now hear the case, and a coalition of local and national groups is urging the Planning Inspectorate to reject Mr Van Praagh’s appeal and allow Wealden District Council to take action to force him to restore the path.

The Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers’ Association, the Sussex Campaign to Protect Rural England, the British Horse Society, and Hartfield and Withyham parish councils all oppose the plan, the details of which were due to be heard today at a development committee meeting, until the application was withdrawn. Officers were to recommend refusal.

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the OSS, said: “This is a highly 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.

“It is excellent news that Mr Van Praagh has withdrawn his application for retrospective consent. The council’s tough stance has shown him that he cannot ignore planning laws. Now the council can concentrate on the enforcement action, to ensure that the route of the public footpath is freed from the unlawful development.  

“We have called on the Planning Inspectorate to reject Mr Van Praagh’s appeal, since the riding arena suburbanises this lovely area, and is an eyesore for walkers on the footpath.  

“If the development was to remain, the path would have to be moved to an inferior route, which would be unacceptable to walkers.”

Ms Ashbrook said the arena was bigger than a football pitch and also covered a section of the Lewes to London Roman Road.

She continued: “We shall fight for the removal of the pernicious development and will oppose any attempts to move this important path.”

The appeal will be heard on 23 July.