LATEST: Madonna's lawyers queried the legality of the land classification process today (06MAY04) as the superstar fights ramblers hoping to gain access to her English estate.

Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie claim land on their 1,200-acre (485-hectare) ASHCOMBE ESTATE on the Wiltshire-Dorset border in England was inaccurately marked as areas of open country and is strongly against public access.

THE COUNTRYSIDE AGENCY had classified 100 acres (40 hectares) of the Ritchie estate as downlands - meaning the public have the right to walk across it.

Madonna and Ritchie's solicitor DAVID ELVIN QC said at the public planning meeting at the ROYAL CHASE HOTEL today the land was farmland, rather than open countryside, because it contained semi-improved grassland.

Elvin said, "The methodology doesn't have the force of law, it's on the only source of consideration. If you apply only the methodology you are not necessarily acting lawfully."

Chris Smith, the appeals adviser for the Agency, responded, "We think that's the methodology the sole piece of information that should be used to map open country."

The hearing continues.

06/05/2004 17:32