Ramblers demand right to roam through supermodel's fortress home

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The Independent Online

The German supermodel Claudia Schiffer has become the target of furious protests on the Spanish island of Majorca after blocking public access to a 16th-century fortress overlooking the Mediterranean by building a huge fence around her holiday home.

The German supermodel Claudia Schiffer has become the target of furious protests on the Spanish island of Majorca after blocking public access to a 16th-century fortress overlooking the Mediterranean by building a huge fence around her holiday home.

Opposition to the unsightly barrier, led by ecological groups and ramblers demanding the right to roam on the path to the fortress, has been simmering for weeks. But protests reached a peak yesterday as placards and hoardings appeared outside the gates of Ms Schiffer's property reading "Claudia out!"

Ms Schiffer, who was seen zipping around Majorca in an open-topped sports car earlier this week, has justified the fence on the grounds that she needs to shield the house she is building from the prying lenses of the paparazzi.

According to the local authorities, who have defended her actions, she not only has planning permission for the fence, but she is now the owner of the fortress which transferred to her possession when she bought the land it sits on, near the port town of Andratx.

They said that the previous owners had always made a public right of way available but there was never any legal requirement to do this and nor is there any obligation on Ms Schiffer.

Critics, however, claim that the local council in Andratx was panicked into granting permission for the fence after Ms Schiffer threatened to stop holidaying on Majorca if she could not be assured of privacy.

The decision was a "cowardly act" said the Balearic group of ornithology and nature protection.

The group said yesterday that the fortress and its lookout tower is an official "site of cultural interest" under Spanish heritage laws and is listed in all of the guide books as recommended viewing for tourists and walkers.

Beyond the issue of access to the tower, however, Ms Schiffer's fence has cast the spotlight on the growing tensions between Majorca's large German community and locals.

Ecologists claim that hers is just the latest example of the German holiday homeowners' tendency to "privatise the coastline" in breach of centuries of local tradition.

The issue has become divisive enough to prompt the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, who spent his summer holidays on Majorca this year, to appeal to his compatriots to have more respect for the island's customs and traditions, including free access to the sea.

But Ms Schiffer's fence has even divided the island's German community.

One of the staunchest opponents to her plan is Herbert Heinrich, 78, a German who has written numerous walking guides to the area.

In a recent interview with the German magazine Stern, Ms Schiffer, who will be 30 next Friday, stressed her longing for a private life since the start of her relationship with the British Green Shield stamps heir, Tim Jeffries. "Work is no longer so important for me" she said.

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