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Saving our forests is seeing the wood for the trees

Cradle Lane

Maureen Comber

Hampshire County Council refuse to discuss the matter with Maureen Comber

Maureen now unable to make FOI requests or even complain

HCC still refusing to send records of meetings, as requested

Says Maureen Comber

Says Maureen Comber Emma Noyce (Hampshire County Council) has said
"Having advised you of our rights, and the legal position, I, or my team, am unable to enter into any further correspondence on this matter".

The problem is that Miss Noyce has also seemingly taken over as Complaints & Freedom of Information Coordinator Culture, Communities & Business Services Email, so I am unable to proceed with an FOI inquiry or complaint, and will have to rely on your good offices to obtain the records of the January meeting referred to, as she has not sent them to me as I requested!

I have attached a leaflet published by HCC on the Shipwrights Way. You will see there is no warning that motorcycles may be using the route. This must surely raise a problem of public liability especially since it is minuted that its primary purpose is for a family cycle route (minutes Jan 11)?

I would also like to clarify the legal position with regard to the use of pedal cycles on bridleways in case you have not been made aware.

Until the 1968 Countryside Act bicycles were not permitted to use bridleways. The 1968 Act gave a concession that a cycle could be either ridden or pushed on bridleways PROVIDING that they gave way to horse riders and walkers. This concessionary right to ride a bicycle does not create an obligation for Local Authorities to do anything to facilitate the use of bridleways by cyclists. On the contrary a bridleway is defined as 'a highway over which the public have the following but no other rights of way, that is to say, a right of way on foot and a right of way on horseback or leading a horse, with or without the right to drive animals of any description along the highway'. The surface of the bridleway should be maintained for the benefit of the horse rider primarily.

I would therefore ask that any sections of bridleway included as a route promoted for cycling, are signed to remind cyclists of their obligation under the 1968 Countryside Act, that they must give way to horse riders and walkers. Failure to do this not only ignores the rights of horse riders and walkers, but in effect upgrades the bridleway to a cycleway.

Only 22 % of rights of way are accessible to horse riders, 78% are footpaths. Whereas horse riders have been content to accept the concession given to cyclists in 1968, they are not at all happy to see their small share of off road access redefined as either cycleways or multi-user paths. Indeed the 1968 Act recognised the vulnerability of horse riders and the value of bridlepaths.

In addition many of the bridleways were tarmaced during WW2 for ease of troops, but by default continued to be accessible to vehicles afterwards. Not only that but the existing speed limit of 60mph gives no indication of the speed at which it might be safe to drive and is not there for the safety of anyone. An outstanding contradiction to the THINK policy and campaign.

Just as the bridleways have been by default taken by motorists, so it seems that cycles will by default subsume bridleways!

It seems to me that the Shipwrights Way project is in danger of becoming a typical example of dismantling, through non parliamentary means,1000 years of heritage and law for bureaucratic convenience. A trend which is alarmingly prevalent these days in many other spheres.

I pine for a more sensible approach to saving our forests

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