Monday, 24 March 2014

Kempston Urban Footpath No. 9 - Update

At the end of this month, Bedford Borough Council will reach the half-way point of its four year programme (as set out in the council’s Rights of Way Improvement Plan) to open up 15 kilometres of unusable public rights of way by 2016. So far it has not opened up even one metre. Nor is it seen to be trying to. Instead, the council continues to waste time and money on other rights of way issues. And it seems to be making slow progress in doing that.
Take the issue of Kempston Urban Footpath No. 9 for example.
An 80 metre section of Kempston Urban Footpath No. 9 crosses a small, mostly public open space beside the River Great Ouse – see bold black line on the image below. Most of the land belongs to Bedford Borough Council. A small part belongs to Kempston Mill Limited.
The council has the power to make an order to divert a footpath. If no one is opposed, then the council can complete the process by confirming the order. The new route then comes into operation and the old one is extinguished.
If someone is opposed to an order, that is to say submits an objection, then the council cannot confirm it. The council can however, ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to confirm an opposed order. He has the power to confirm such orders but he first appoints an Inspector to deal with the case at some form of public inquiry. An Inspector can confirm an order with or without amendments or refuse to confirm an order.
The council made an order to divert part of Kempston Urban Footpath No. 9 in August 2013 - see HERE, but it is opposed. The Council has asked the Secretary of State to confirm the order (I understand with amendments because the council had not described the position of the new route correctly), and he has appointed an Inspector. However, the council has been informed that they have not carried out the diversion order procedure correctly. They must now re-advertise the diversion order with notices on site and in a local newspaper for a minimum of 28 days.
If the order is confirmed then it will not serve to open up the public rights of way network.
The part of Footpath No. 9 to be diverted has been cleared and is now available for use but the council continues to waste time and money dealing with a pointless diversion instead of trying to open up unusable paths as it has said it would.

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