Friday, 20 December 2013

Guru Ravidass Lane, Bedford

A road in Bedford town centre cannot be used as a through route because it is obstructed by a locked gate.

Guru Ravidass Lane
(View towards Ashburnham Road)

The road, Guru Ravidass Lane, MK40 1ED, runs between Ashburnham Road near Bedford Railway Station and The Avenue. I’m not entirely sure of the circumstances that caused the situation so I asked the council if they would confirm whether or not my statement below is true:
"Currently, there’s a legal wrangle between Bedford Borough Council and a landowner over a lane in Bedford. The Council gave permission for a gate to be erected on Guru Ravidass Lane, Bedford but following complaints now considers that the public have a right to walk along the lane and require the locked gate to be removed to enable public access.
This is interesting because Guru Ravidass Lane is in what is called The Excluded Area which means, in a public rights of way sense, that it is an area for which there is no Definitive Map and Statement. It is also interesting because if the Council pursues the case and as a consequence proves that the lane is a public footpath, the area (a) will get a definitive map and statement and (b) the public’s right to walk along the lane will be better protected.”
The council’s response was:
“I have no comments on your statement.”
A pity really because it seemed I had found something positive to write about rather than complain even if the result I hope for arises from a cock-up; a definitive map and statement for the excluded area of Bedford would be good news. And it would have been nice to be able to report something optimistic during the season of goodwill. Truly. But it’s a two-way process.
A Definitive Map and Statement is a legal record of the position and status of public rights of way.
The mapping of public rights of way started in 1951 under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Four separate maps were produced as part of the process of producing a Definitive Map and Statement for the then county of Bedfordshire.

The 1949 Act allowed the County Council to seek permission to opt out of the process for those urban areas which were fully developed except that Bedford and Luton, as County Boroughs were not included in the areas that had to be mapped under the provisions of the 1949 Act. In the case of Bedfordshire therefore, Bedford, Biggleswade, Dunstable, and Luton were excluded. Under current legislation the highway authorities for these areas, Bedford Borough Council, Central Bedfordshire Council and Luton Borough Council are required to publish a map of these areas – the so called Excluded Areas. None have done so.

It should be of great concern to the public because pre-1949 paths, which may include Guru Ravidass Lane (as well as, for example, alleyways such as those leading from and to the High Street, Bedford, and those paths that criss-cross The Embankment, Bedford) are at risk of being lost forever if not protected by the publication of a Definitive Map and Statement for The Excluded Area of Bedford.

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