Says Naomi Smith
It is all too possible to round a corner on horseback and come upon a group of cattle with no prior warning -this WILL result in a horse being badly spooked at best, bolting at worst -it is only a matter of time ........... read more
Hampshire County Council and Path Migration
Andrew Mackintosh, Senior Specialist,
Access and Rights of Way, Natural England
- Natural England did not comment on the proposals or ask for the paths to be diverted. - There is no intent on our part, either here or elsewhere, for biodiversity objectives to compromise public access rights.
Says Andrew Mackintosh
Natural England does not have a specific policy about path ‘migration’, which we take to mean in this case: the diversion of an overgrown and less frequently used path to a new ‘use’ line.
We do, as you say, have an overarching objective to promote public recreation, but have no statutory powers in relation to public access outside some National Trail/Coastal Access and Open Access duties.
We do not encourage landowners to neglect or obstruct paths and would expect them, where appropriate, to comply with their legal duties towards public rights of way (PROW).
I can also confirm that users of a PROW do indeed have a right to deviate around an obstruction, and vegetation growing on (or into) a PROW could potentially constitute such an obstacle.
RE Maintenance of paths across protected sites (i.e. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and/or European protected sites)
Highways Authorities have a general duty to maintain the surface of public rights of way and to keep them free from obstruction but, there may be occasions, where actions associated with rights of way diversions, creation and maintenance, could be considered significant enough to merit an appropriate assessment or require consent under wildlife law.
Defra Circular 1/09 Advice to Local Authorities https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rights-of-way-circular-1-09 states (in relation to SSSI’s):
6.35 Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) provides for the notification of SSSIs and requires the owner or occupier of land in question to obtain permission from Natural England before certain potentially damaging operations can be carried out. These operations, which are notified to every owner and occupier within the SSSI, may include those activities normally associated with the creation or routine maintenance of highways. Highway authorities are therefore advised to consult informally with Natural England before carrying out any operation affecting an SSSI, including path maintenance.
I understand from your email, and the papers from Hampshire CC, that the diversions are being proposed partly on conservation grounds but I can confirm Natural England did not comment on the proposals or ask for the paths to be diverted.
The advice from Defra is for highways authorities and Natural England to work together to manage path networks within protected sites and I hope I can assure you that there is no intent on our part, either here or elsewhere, for biodiversity objectives to compromise public access rights.
Comments Sarah Palmer
Maybe one of the other organisations will give it a bit of a mention in their newsletters or agenda time at their meetings to discuss implications on their members.
Says Sarah Palmer
I emailed Natural England regarding their Path Migration Policy and this is their response.
To be honest I'm not entirely sure what I've achieved but at least the subject is now out in the open so I guess that's a good thing.
Maybe one of the other organisations that I copied in will give it a bit of a mention in their newsletters or agenda time at their meetings to discuss implications on their members.
I don't suppose it's a natural phenoma exclusive to Hampshire!
Sarah Palmer replies to Andrew Mackintosh, Natural England
I'm a little bit perplexed.
I always thought the law was the law and creative interpretation wasn't entertained by the British legal system,
Says Sarah Palmer
It's nice to know Natural England do still uphold their objective to enable public access to English countryside.
I'm guessing your enquiries with the local site team at Yateley Common has had some impact as I received an unsolicited automatic response message from the highways authority yesterday simply saying 'Vigo Lane', which I take to mean they are going to do something about the blocked rights of way, poor visibility splays or maybe just put some Horses Crossing Ahead in X metres signs.
I will await with cautious optimism that they are going to do something.
I'm a little bit perplexed by your first paragraph where you say you expect landowners 'where appropriate' to comply with their legal duties towards PROW on their land.
What constitutes inappropriate and/or eligible for neglect of their legal duties?
I always thought the law was the law and creative interpretation wasn't entertained by the British legal system, it certainly isn't as far as motoring offences on public highways are concerned so what makes off-road routes special?
You are saying landowners of SSSI land are encouraged to consult Natural England prior to maintaining paths or creating new ones. However if they have neglected them and the public are forced to leave the paths (even if that is acceptable under CROW - Open Access) it must surely be to the detriment of the blessed flora and fauna and therefore the landowner/highways authority is guilty of wilfully damaging the SSSI land by their neglect to carry out their duties?
I do seriously wonder how many landowners are claiming to meet their habitat creation targets by neglecting to maintain rights of way rather than sacrifice other land on their property.
This is where I wonder if their motivation is Natural England funds and think that greater controls need introducing and implementing otherwise Natural England is indirectly contributing and encouraging the loss of rights of way that would otherwise be kept open.
Thank you again for investigating and responding to my query. I have copied interested people who may wish to comment independently.
Says 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