Friday, 17 October 2014
Wyboston, Chawston & Colesden Footpath No. A11E
A public hearing will be held at Wyboston Parish Village Hall next week on Tuesday 21 October 2014 into a public path order that Bedford Borough Council has made to extinguish a public footpath in Wyboston, a hamlet about 10 miles north of Bedford. I wrote about the order HERE.
Anyone can object to a public path order and I have objected to the Wyboston Order on behalf of the OpenSpaces Society. The Bedfordshire Rights of Way Association has objected too. As has Mike Clarke - a member of the public who has probably done more than any one person locally to protect public rights of way in the historic county of Bedfordshire. When consulted in the lead up to the making of the order, The Ramblers Association informed Bedford Borough Council that they would object to the proposed order but in the event, shamefully, they did not object and most probably won’t show up at the hearing.
A highway authority (Bedford Borough Council in this case) cannot proceed with an opposed order other than to abandon it or send it to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who can appoint an Inspector to hear the arguments for and against at a formal full public inquiry, or at a less formal public hearing, or by a process of written representations. After careful consideration the Inspector will confirm the order as it stands, or confirm it with modifications, or reject it.
The public hearing on Tuesday will be a first for me. I have notched up one public inquiry and two written representations procedures.
My hope is that the arguments against closing the footpath forever will be strong enough to convince the Inspector to reject the order thereby keeping the footpath in public use. Public rights of way are part of our heritage, and, in my view they are part of our identity and need to be protected for the enjoyment of all. Bedford Borough Council does not seem to hold the same view.
A landowner should not obstruct a public right of way – not least because it is a criminal offence to do so. And Bedford Borough Council should not use its discretionary powers, at the expense of the public, especially at a time when it is trying to save money, to reward landowners who wilfully obstruct public rights of way.
Rather, it should carry out its legal duty to protect public rights of way for present and future generations.