RIGHTS OF WAY WATCH
The Shipwrights Way Project is all Ship WRONG, says Bob Milton
The Hampshire Action Team (HAT) for East Hampshire plan to create a long distance multi-user path linking Alice Holt Forest near Bordon, East Hampshire with Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield .
The intended path, which forms part of a larger route linking London to Portsmouth, will connect attractions such as Alice Holt Forest, Birdworld and Queen Elizabeth Country Park as well as train stations in Bentley, Liphook, Liss, Petersfield and Rowlands Castle.
The route is likely to broadly follow the route that logs were historically taken from Alice Holt Forest to Portsmouth Dockyard. Additionally it should form part of the National Cycle Network Route being promoted by Sustrans which will link London to Portsmouth.
But Bob Milton says it is all WRONG
He has no less than 17 Reasons for saying it is WRONG
The Shipwrights Way Project - Why the proposals are wrong.
What Bob Milton told Hampshire County Council
Land status of the promoted route. It seems that the partnership is back peddling in the need to make this route multi user route. Your explanation did not quite answer the question but from what you put on the presentation and from what you told me this is all about getting and using s106 moneys. I do not believe that s106 moneys cannot be used for multiuser routes and I believe it is misleading unless that is the purpose of so doing so. The use of LTP money is legitimate and legal for ROWIPs [rights of way improvement plans] and if the project meets more than one aim all the more benefit. I also believe that where the TBH SPA is concerned then it is legitimate to use SANGs money for circular and linear routes that meet the NE criteria which according to Waverley BC and Natural England Alice Holt does. What is not possible is to use SANGs money for statutory duty such as rights of way maintenance. Sangs monies require a minimum in perpetuity period of 80 years so permissive linear routes do not meet this requirement. The same would be expected of s106 monies so that the only lawful use would be in the dedication of rights of way at a minimum and for maximum public benefit that would be a minimum of Bridleway status.
The issue as to the Forestry Commission land is that as a result of s16 CROW pedestrians already have a right to use the forest subject to CROW exemptions. The Shipwright's Way proposal requires permanent use at all times which as such is not met by existing rights except on rights of way and on the public carriageway network. Cycling in the forest is not by right nor is it charged unlike equestrian use. As it is not possible to grant permissive rights to the public at large except through legislation it will then be open for cyclists with the support of pedestrians to claim the route as a restricted byway by common law and the acquiescence of the land owner. There is no reason why the Secretary of State should not dedicate the route as a restricted byway through the forest. It is not something that is in the gift of Forest Enterprise or the Commissioners. Have you actually asked?
A similar situation applies to the commons where it is illegal to ride a bicycle on common land without lawful authority. This could result in the same situation as above and claims for rights of way by deemed dedication or at common law.
The situation with the access to Bentley Station is still open as confirmed by you in that there is a 200m strip not owned by the Forestry Commission. I await the result of your negotiations.
The situation with the MoD is similar to the Forestry commission but not the same. Here also the issue of dedication for highway of land adjacent to the highway and the old railway line are crucial to the project. It is also the case that Defence estates choose to charge in some areas equestrian permits for access yet make cycling unlawful but do not enforce. In some instances they even seem to condone and facilitate it.
It is important to understand who owns the surface of the route and what rights exist over it either by legislation or prescription. For example Cradle lane is shown on the rights of way definitive map as a Byway open to all traffic and the TROs have been exercised in that respect ie as a right of way. The truth is that the way is a public vehicular carriageway and is on the list of streets as a d class road. It is a pre 1835 public vehicular highway. The duty of the highway authority [s130 HA1980] is to maintain it as such and that the Surveyor of Highways is the vested owner of the top two spits at least [LJ Denning]. It could therefore be deduced that the cost of the works at present being carried out should not be from the rights of way budget and that the surface should be maintained as a road for all traffic.
In cases where the highway authority is the owner of the surface and has a duty to maintain the way as a public highway then there is no reason why the highway authority could not dedicate higher rights ie bridleway on a footpath. Where rights of way are capable of being used for the way ie in the Forestry then again there is no reason why such upgrades should not be dedicated as there would be no compensation to pay or increased maintenance liability on the highway authority or the landowner.
Important as it is for EHDC and HCC to connect the centres of urban population with the countryside it should not be forgotten the if the promoted way is to be considered suitable for green tourism it must have a continuous multi user route from start to finish. I can understand the potential importance of getting the route into Borden but without its own railway it seems that you are making presumptions not born of reality. The Borden connection should not include the main A325 but treat Borden as a spur and pedestrian / cyclist braided route whilst the main north south route runs through Headley to Passfield Common.
The route over any common land ie Passfield Common would need to be dedicated as at least a bridleway as it is illegal for a member of the public to ride a bicycle or any vehicle on common land.
I am concerned that s106 monies will be used for funding the new development of the Forestry Commission visitors centre and car park construction. I am also concerned that the FC policy of charging for car parking in Alice Holt will be for its own benefit not for the route in general. What is the proposed regime both in Alice Holt and at the QE country park? These are honey pot sites in there own right so is the whole project just one to increase income for these. Especially as these sections are being it seems rushed through so as to release s106 monies this year.
It will be a disaster in public relations if the same access rules do not apply over the whole route.
I was concerned that you gave lots of weight in the linkage to the North Downs Way. This is incorrect as the NDW finishes at Farnham Station not Bentley and sustrans route 22 does not follow the NDW in Surrey. The NDW at the Farnham end is only a footpath and unlike the South Downs way which is a bridleway from end to end and is used by equestrians, cyclists and pedestrians for green tourism.
I am concerned that the lack of regard for the mobility impaired and the duty of all concerned under the Equality Act 2010. I do not intend to go into detail but I believe that the approach you have taken in disregarding the use of the whole project route for those scheduled classes and others will leave you and the partnership open to judicial review.
I also believe that by not treating the whole route as at least a right of way then certain funding that you seem to be relying on would be ultra vires.
As I said at the meeting it may be that you will have to an Environmental Impact Assessment where the route crosses any specially designated land but it should be remembered that it is not possible to impose such designation on a highway itself. There are considerations as to maintenance timing etc and it is possible to divert a right of way for nature conservation reason but to date Natural England has not seen fit to use this legislation as it is very specific and the item of special interest needs to be almost unique. The Habitat Directive and the supporting uk legislation does not have any effect on existing public rights or access but would have if the project gave new rights over the SPA for instance. I do not believe that there is any part of this route that in itself or as a whole with any other project except the Borden Eco town would have any detrimental impact on any of the SPA land it crosses.
The issue of self closing bridlegates has not been factored in where rights of ways go through grazing stock for equestrian or mobility impaired users.
Enforcement is another area that is dependant on land status and without the route having a single rights of way status it will be impossible for the police to use such powers as s34 Road Traffic Act.
Do you believe Bob or do you believe Hampshire County Council?