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Says Adrienne Yentis

Says Adrienne YentisA friend of mine recently was riding on the heath
and she came across a group of cattle strung out across the bridlepath with no way through – the only way off was to turn round. Fortunately her horse
remained calm throughout. But you can imagine how a nervous horse might react ........... read more

Draft Deregulation Bill Just Published
Rights of Way.

- The rights of way clauses attracted the most interest and the most passion. Of the over 300 responses received, around half were either about the rights of way clauses or about issues related to them.

- Evidence from both the South Somerset Bridleways Association and the South Pennine Packhorse Trust was cited in the main report.

Summary of the Draft Deregulation Bill

Draft Deregulation Bill Just Published

The land use section of report opens by noting, "of all the issues in the draft Bill, those associated with the rights of way provisions in clauses 12 to 18 and Schedule 6 ("the rights of way clauses") attracted the most interest and the most passion in response to our Call for Evidence. Of the over 300 responses received, around half were either about the rights of way clauses or about issues related to them. " [Para 124].

There is discussion about the work of the Stakeholder Working Group, and the consensus that seems to have held together. The first conclusion is, "We are aware that the law governing rights of way is highly contentious and commend the SWG for its achievement in reaching a consensus on the issue of recording unrecorded historic rights of way. We acknowledge also that maintaining that consensus requires the package of reforms contained in the draft Bill to be accepted as a whole." [Para 130]

The report refers to matters that have not yet reached a conclusion in the SWG. On these aspects, it concludes, "Whilst the SWG has managed to forge a consensus in support of the package, aspects of the new provisions are still under discussion both within the SWG and more widely. We expect the Government to show leadership and balance to take this vital part of our Report to a successful conclusion." [Para 139]

The next topic is that of costs and the backlog. Kate Ashbrook's oral evidence as to 4,000 applications awaiting processing is noted, as is South Somerset Bridleways Association's 185 applications submitted between 2008 and 2010 that have yet to be processed at all. Various witnesses who talked of lack of funding in local government are cited.

There are some good points at para 144, where the South Pennine Packhorse Trails Trust and the National Federation of Bridleway Associations describe how, when the concept of the cut-off date was suggested by the Countryside Commission in 1999, the Commission was "careful to include" a number of caveats such as "adequate long-term funding".

They also mention how the issue was similarly raised in Natural England's 2008 report, Discovering Lost Ways, and in a 2012 Ramblers' report on the reduction of funding for rights of way in England. The Ramblers' report found that nearly 70% of councils had cut their rights of way budgets over the previous three years and that "rights of way, and the teams which look after them, are being disproportionately affected by council funding cuts".

The South Pennine Packhorse Trails Trust and the National Federation of Bridleway Associations concluded that, as a result, there had been a "loss of staff and expertise, to the extent that some local authorities are unable to process modification orders". They did not believe that the issue had been given "sufficient weight".

As a result, the report concluded, "We have some concerns about the current backlog of rights of way applications and the likely additional pressures caused by the reforms and the imposition of the cut-off date. We question whether the implications for local authorities, in particular, have been fully assessed by the Government. Against this background, if these clauses are to go forward in this Bill, the Government will need to address the impact on local authorities." [Para 145]

Note that this recommendation could be damaging if it precipitates the closing of the system all together.

The Report then considers calls for wider reform than currently in the draft bill. After a little discussion, the committee concluded, "We took the view at the outset that we would focus our attention on the clauses in the draft Bill and that we would not consider proposals for additional provisions. Given the level of public interest in rights of way, however, we drawn to the attention of the Government the wider rights of way concerns raised in the course of this inquiry and urge them to take action to meet them." [Para 154].

Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000: 51.6% of the time allowed by Parliament for recording rights of way since Royal Assent has now gone!

The full report and the two volumes of evidence can be read here

The web version of the report has the rights of way aspects - click here

Says Linda WrightSays Linda Wright

We moved to a Shropshire location a year ago having surveyed the local OS map and noted the significant number of bridleways around the property. Sadly the map appears a total fiction. Scarce any of the bridleways are usable ........... read more

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