Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A Letter To A Newspaper

The Bedfordshire on Sunday newspaper published an article on 26th January about Bedford Borough Council's public rights of way performance. It began:

"A COUNCIL'S pledge to open up 15km of public footpaths by 2017 is 'aspirational' rather than binding officers have said. Bedford Borough Council set a target back in 2012 to open up 15km of blocked rights of way by 2017 but as yet hasn't reopened any of it."

I wrote a letter in response which was published (slightly edited) on 2nd February.

Here's my letter in full:

Dear Editor yourletters,

I hope that you will allow me to respond to your article (January 26, 2014 - "Pathway target is not legal but aspirational") in some way:

"Bedford Borough Council’s claim (Bedfordshire on Sunday - January 26, 2014) that its aim to open up 15km of obstructed paths by 2016 (not 2017, as reported) is “aspirational” and therefore not binding is a lame excuse for what may turn out to be a spectacular failure. The council’s objectives and targets are clearly defined in its Rights of Way Improvement Plan. “Aspiration” – hoping to achieve, does not feature in the Plan. “Target” - trying to achieve, does.

Having set targets, aims, practical actions and objectives (other descriptions in the Improvement Plan), the council has a moral duty to try to open up the rights of way network. And that should not hide the fact that the council has an explicit legal duty to keep all paths open anyway.

Nothing has been opened so far because the council hasn’t tried. It has focussed limited resources on discretionary rights of way issues rather than concentrating on its legal duties and promises.

The council relies on unnamed council officers to make excuses about what is binding or not, and it has delegated powers to council officers to make all rights of way decisions. The Portfolio Holder, Councillor Sarah-Jayne Holland who endorsed the Rights of Way Improvement Plan should admit that targets are not being met, and explain what measures will be taken to meet them."

No comments:

Post a Comment