Natural England not implementing its own
Code of Practice for Services
NE does not supply evidence or consider its duty under the EqA
Says Bob Milton
I have today received a reply and have had a long discussion with the Eq Commission on the need for NE to show it has met the requirements of the EqA in its imposition of cattle/ pony grazing on public access commons with the attendant self closing gates.
It seems that there is a requirement under part3, 4 and 11 and as set out in ch11 of the Code of Practice for Services, public functions and associations. This does not seem to have been done, as at no time in the formulation of HLS agreements or in the considerations of NE officers in making those agreements is evidence seen of the effect on those equestrians with protected characteristics which includes those who can not remount without steps or arthritis in the hands who would be disadvantaged by the power needed to use the spring loaded handles of the one way self closing gates as well as the actual use of the self closing gates which were not there before the imposition of the extensive grazing regime by NE. The same applies to the recent case on Telscombe Tye and others such as the proposal for Padworth.
As you found out the gates at Headley Heath [which still have not been changed] not only have caused accidents and serious displacement for all users they were unusable by those in mobility vehicles and the disabled on horses. The gates on Hindhead Common having been challenged by the Disabled Ramblers some five years ago still have not been changed. Even the North Downs Way National Trail fails across the board in terms of the EqA. [eg Image 243]
The imposition of cattle seems to discriminate against all public as of right users and given the report on Petersham Meadows even the H&SE seems to acknowledge the problem of mixing cattle and public access.
NE does not supply evidence or consider its duty under the EqA as at no time in any of the s38 applications has NE supplied an Equality Impact Assessment to support its imposition of extensive cattle and horse grazing on commons with public rights to air and exercise or which are held for public recreation. It is insufficient for NE to rely on the individual applicants to deal with the structural requirements of HLS after having signed the agreement to use public funds to discriminate against protected users.
The EQ Commission has pointed out that ‘case law shows that due regard should be given before decisions are made’.
It may also be the case that Planning Inspectors in not seeking to discover if this has been done are themselves in breach of the duty. This perhaps puts another facet on the recent Hartlebury s38 case where the Inspector took WCC’s word that they owned the common when it was only vested under the CA1965.