Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Rights of Way Improvement Plan 2012-2017

As the highway authority, Bedford Borough Council is required by law to maintain and protect its public rights of way and to keep them available for public use. However, many rights of way in the borough are obstructed and cannot be used. The council admits to this but does not know or say how many or how much is unavailable.

The council has a five year plan to open up and improve the network - the Bedford Borough Council Rights of Way Improvement Plan 2012 – 2017 (ROWIP). It is a splendid document containing fine words signed off by Councillor Sarah-Jayne Holland, Portfolio Holder for Communities and Regulatory Services.

However, targets are not being met. For instance, ROWIP Aim 3 is to “Extend and enhance the Rights of Way network”. Various aims are then detailed as to how this will be achieved. Obstructed public rights of way are dealt with at paragraph 3.1.a - “Open 15 kilometres of previously unusable path through resolution of Definitive Map anomalies by 2016.”
What this means is that the council will make public path orders to resolve problem paths (anomalies). For example: divert a footpath which is obstructed because it has been built upon or the area developed in some way. Many paths in the borough are affected in this way. One such is Bedford Footpath No. 1 which crosses Goldington Green. Finger posts on Goldington Road and Goldington Green clearly indicate where it crosses the green, and the route of the path can be seen on the Ordnance Survey map for the area. Regrettably, (possibly criminally because it's an offence to obstruct a public right of way) Bedford Borough Council has built a fenced-in playground over the legal line of the footpath. Click image (left) to expand it.

Approaching the end of the second year of the Rights of Way Improvement Plan and with about two more years before the target date for this aim, not one metre has been opened up.

What chance 15km now Councillors?

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