Access All Areas – Dark clouds on the horizon?

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With the bonfire of red tape currently underway by the coalition government it was only a matter of time before vested interests started pursuing their own aims.

Step forward the Country Landowners Association who have just released report on their views on the Right of Way network: The Right Way Forward:The CLA’S Common Sense Approach to Access in the Countryside

The report starts well; “The rights of way system defies common sense.”  Yup, we agree there.

“An injection of common sense is required.”  Yup, we agree there too.

“Simplifying the rules and applying common sense, while at the same time ensuring that paths are well signed, maintained and unobstructed, are basic principles that should apply to all paths.”  Where do we sign up?

But dig a bit deeper and a it becomes clear the recommendations are aimed at reducing the number of claims for new or altered rights of way, with costs liable if cases are lost and a deadline of 2026 after which no further claims would be possible.

There’s a strong theme of a move to permissive access and a note of the commercial opportunities for land owners.

For all you cheeky trails riders there’s also the threat of the permanent removal of any access to any ‘problem’ path

“Government should enable the temporary or permanent closure of paths where persistent illegal or anti-social use occurs.”

 

The Ramblers have been quick to respond to the report, we’ve not seen anything from CTC yet.

Friends or Foes? What do you reckon?

The full document is available here
http://www.cla.org.uk/policy_docs/Access15060212.pdf

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Comments (12)

    Probably not going to be our staunchest allies which is one of the resons we as mountain bikers need to work together, stop sticking our heads in the sand because ‘we’re alright riding cheeky trails and no ones going to stop us’ and start engaging with the issues. Something Pennine Mountain Bike Action is in fact doing this month as we’ve organised an access evening with a few guest speakers. More details on http://www.pmba.org.uk .

    I’m sorry but the CLA report is a bunch of crap. Apologies for so many quotes of the precis, but their first half dozen sentences alone are cobblers: –

    [/quote]It defies all sense of propriety and logic when substantial resources are spent trying to open up paths unused for decades or centuries, if at all, regardless of the impact of such moves[/quote]

    So the CLA agree that there ARE paths in places its just they dont want them? 99% of the time this happens if someone moves buys property without doing a proper land search on it. Just because noone can walk it (not that they dont want to, theyre just overgrown usually) doesn’t mean its the path users fault if you move somewhere, dont do your homework, and find out there is a path there.

    The CLA believes it is unjust that property owners have no right to request paths are diverted out of their gardens or away from busy, and potentially dangerous, farmyards.

    Well they can its called a diversion. Yes it costs money, and you may not be successful, but the option is there. I agree that its prudent to route walkers away from busy / dangerous areas like farms, but as long as the definitive line is open most councils will let landowners open up informal permissive paths around any areas like that described. I do this and you basically pretend the permissive path is the definitive one.

    It is unfair – to users and landowners – that no clear consistent width is applied to public rights of way

    There are generally accepted widths unless already specified on the Definitive Map ‘statement’. I really don’t know what they’re getting at here.

    It is extraordinary that there is no consistency for livestock owners who currently have the right to place a gate or stile on a footpath or bridleway which crosses a field, but not if a byway does so.

    So its extraordinary landowners can’t block a bridleway or byway with a stile is it? Maybe because horses and bikes find them difficult? If you need a gate for stock-proofing ask your PRoW department for a gate licence. Again they’re being hyper-critical of a non-issue.

    “An injection of common sense is required”

    The Rights of Way system is entrenched in several laws, unfortunately common sense doesn’t come into it. Id like common sense applied to speeding tickets and recreational drugs but guess what? It’s the law!

    Thus it cannot be right that livestock owners, with little place else to keep their livestock other than their fields, can be held liable for their stock when they have not been at

    Farmers are perfectly entitled to have livestock on their fields with footpaths through them, its just that a few specific conditions are necessary, like not having dangerous types of cattle of certain ages or specific animals you already know are dangerous.

    As for

    For all you cheeky trails riders there’s also the threat of the permanent removal of any access to any ‘problem’ path

    “Government should enable the temporary or permanent closure of paths where persistent illegal or anti-social use occurs.”

    Its called alley-gating and its been possible for years. Its not an option to stop cheeky trails though as its very expensive to implement and its predominantly for putting gates at the ends of small urban alleys.

    Nice to see STW keeping an eye on the latest PRoW news though 🙂

    Ah, can’t use quotes, never mind!

    Bunch of crap it may be, but it’s timed and worded to support Tory Defra reforms. We’ve got a government that doesn’t want evidence but spin to support their agenda, no?

    as far as alley gating the army did this around our way to stop the kids riding mx bikes across the ranges which have got quite a few footpaths running round them as far as stopping mountain bike nope me and all my friends can still get pass and as far as the report goes are you really surprised that farmers/land owners(tory voters) would be leaning in that general direction and applying pressure on there mates in office.

    if you need a gate for stock-proofing ask your PRoW department for a gate licence. Again they’re being hyper-critical of a non-issue.
    ——

    I presume you’re referring to S147 (HA’1980) – which doesn’t apply to Byways – so you can’t get a “gate licence” for a byway, only for a FP or BW (for agricultural purposes etc) so the point the CLA make is a fair one.

    ———–

    Well they can its called a diversion. Yes it costs money, and you may not be successful, but the option is there. I agree that its prudent to route walkers away from busy / dangerous areas like farms, but as long as the definitive line is open most councils will let landowners open up informal permissive paths around any areas like that described. I do this and you basically pretend the permissive path is the definitive one.

    ————–

    119ZA are notoriously long winded due to the need for a PI if opposed – So, if you agree that on balance the LA feel that change is prudent, and in the best interest of all parties, why the long winded legalistic process? Equally, this is a double edged sword, since we can CREATE rights of way where its in the overall best interest (S25 & 26 with caveats of taking into account public interest etc) and I’d be keen to see these go ahead without the right for a PI where landowners or third parties object. Good example in Harrogate over the last few years where a simple S26 creation has taken *years* to resolve and cost all parties a small fortune.

    ————–

    “Government should enable the temporary or permanent closure of paths where persistent illegal or anti-social use occurs.”
    ——————–

    Dave, I think you’re looking for conspiracy theories here – its easy to read something more into it, but where genuine problems are occurring (one example I’ve seen, fly tipping of *large* amounts of waste on a byway) then a closure or restriction of certain classes may often be a pragmatic and reasonablesolution.

    Oops, I read byway as bridleway, and you’re quite correct (and the sentence now makes sense!). But what’s the proportion of BOATS / RB’s on the network? 2%? In any instance, although S147 byway gates are indeed a legisative issue, I seem to remember you can (and powys I think started this) use S62 to authorise them in conjunction with some S82 encosures, and remember we’re talking about NEW gates not replacements. Maybe though its a problem in areas with more byways than usual.

    Regarding the creation (but creation not in the legal sense) of a permissive path, I’m talking about not even thinking about a PPO; the only condition is as long as the definitive line is navigable, I – and other LA’s – are now starting to open up (we supply the material if they do the work) permissive paths around farmyards. The idea is that the shiny, easier to use, PP’s are more enticing to use than the definitive path. Who really wants to go through a working farmyard when there is an alternative route that bypasses it? And BTW if you really want to use the def line you can as its still open, so all legal obligations / responsibilities in that regard are met

    Obviously each instance will be looked at individually in terms of cost / need / etc, but I consider providing half a dozen stiles or wooden gates prudent when you consider the grander scheme of things.

    Certainly there are some creation agreement horror stories about, and I agree that orders should definitely be far cheaper and maybe done at cost, but I wonder how would LA’s solicitors fees be met – which is the majority of the cost.

    I don’t see a conspiracy here either (and I want to avoid the whole ‘government being in bed with major landowners’ discussions TBH), just an organisation with interests that aren’t entirely friendly to public access rights, seeing an opportunty to try and meet some of their members objectives.

    I think we’re both pretty much on the same train of thought Schnor.

    Having dealt with ROW stuff from both the user and landowner position, I think its very easy for either side to become entrenched in a ‘them and us’ attitude, whereas if people take a pragmatic approach most of these problems can be solved.

    I think my biggest concern is that the system has become far too legalistic, and I think we can all agree that historic use is generally not the best arbiter of whats best – I wonder if there would be a possibility to introduce a “binding arbitration” programme to keep things out of the public inquiry and big legal bills?

    Definitely, I very much prefer the pragmatic approach. I think 90% of day-to-day PRoW problems can be met with a reasonable compromise, and I think compromise has to come from the PRoW officer first as usually we are the ones coming to people with a problem that needs sorting out.

    Quite often I turn a blind eye to something, or follow the spirit of the law rather than the letter – particularly if it comes to farmyards and paths that go unusually close to peoples houses / through gardens. The landowner recognises my flexibility and is then willing to agree on something else.

    Maybe this a possible part-solution – to stop problems getting so far in the first place – with LA’s not taking such a strict line (council employees in common sense shocker!)

    I know ultimately its only paths, its not life and death and doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but like most things the higher the issue gets up the legal food chain, it naturally gets more legalistic, technical and therefore expensive.

    I don’t think arbitration will work because some of the parties will come to the table with a lot of anger and/or cash and be determined to ‘win’ come what may. And the step before court – the public inquest – is essentially arbitration anyway, and that still costs a lot of money.

    Maybe a cap on legal costs is the answer e.g. if neither side can win the case with £x, 000 then its obviously not worth fighting, so reverts back to how it was.

    I wouldn’t mind if the land owners had something to protect. The fact is that most of the ‘farm land’ in this country is laid to grass and sitting there doing nothing at all. It’s deliberately not farmed so they can receive EU monies.

    In France most of the land is farmed and you wouldn’t dream of cycling across a crop. That said there is a network of national cycle routes around and across all their farm land.

    One final point; the land owners don’t seem to mind when it’s the hunt who want to trample anywhere across their land. Seems to me they just want to keep the peasants out !

    Excitable1. Speaking as both a mountain biker, who enjoys the odd cheeky trial or footpath AND a small scale livestock farmer/landowner (but NOT a current CLA or Conservative party member) I’ve spotted you seem to have missed a HUGE point here, that even some trained surveyors/valuers and many of the public often miss. GRASS IS A CROP, possibly the most important crop in the UK. What do you think all the dairy cattle producing milk eat all year, and the other cattle for beef and sheep for lamb? They eat grass, grass that is carefully managed to provide grazing and or conserved feed (hay or silage) for winter fodder. The vast expanses of grass are not just left there to claim subsidy on or playgrounds for people to exercise their dogs on where they adjoin footpaths or byways, and said dog’s should be kept on a lead and on the path anyway even where there are no livestock in a field. Dog excrement (and or other careless litter) when picked up in conserved fodder can be dangerous, possibly deadly to livestock if ingested. Just because a field isn’t waist high in wheat, barley or oil seed rape doesn’t mean it is not doing anything. In many cases it comes down to common sense and respect. The current Common Agricultural Policy reforms are designed to promote both food production and to maintain the character and diversity of the countryside. It is after all hundreds of years of farming that have shaped the countryside that so many of us value and use for recreation today. Not all farmers are fat ruddy faced gentry. Farming for the most part is physically, stressfully and financially difficult work, not just from looking after livestock or crops 365 days a year in all weathers but from the raft of red tape that comes with it, which at last someone seems to be doing something about. OK, rant over I’m off to look at something more interesting.

    Why on Earth does England not simplify the whole mess and introduce right to roam like up here? As mentioned above nobody would ride across a crop, but England seems to have so much red tape and frankly confusion over what can and cannot be ridden. IMO with the exception of Loch Lomond, RTR has improved everybody’s behaviour. And remember, the landowners up here are/were very protective of their holiday estates.

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