Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Maulden Footpath No. 28 - Again

The Maulden Footpath No. 28 SAGA continues.

In 2008, Mr Bowers of Maulden made an application to delete Maulden FP28 from the Definitive Map, following unsuccessful attempts to extinguish it under the Highways Act 1980. Central Bedfordshire Council refused the application in 2013. Mr Bowers appealed against that refusal to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State appointed an inspector to consider the appeal. The inspector decided that it should be refused. Mr Bowers applied for a judicial review of that decision, and was successful. The decision was quashed on the grounds that the inspector who considered the appeal erred in law when he refused to hear evidence which had not been considered by the Council Committee which decided to refuse Mr Bowers’ application in 2013. The appeal had to be re-determined.

A public inquiry was held in September 2015.

On 2nd October 2015, the inspector concluded that the Appeal should be refused. Central Bedfordshire Council’s decision not to make an order to delete the footpath is upheld. I’m pleased to say that Maulden Footpath No. 28 remains - for the time being.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Wilden Footpath No. 6 - part of our heritage

Wilden FP6
The proposal (see HERE) to divert part of Wilden Footpath No. 6 has been withdrawn. Sensibly, Bedford Borough Council now says “that a more comprehensive solution to this long-running problem would be in everyone’s best interests and the current proposal will not necessarily help bring that about.”

Bedford Borough Council will revisit research carried out by the former Bedfordshire County Council which led it to refute the Mayes Close residents’ assertion that the footpath, although on their land, was fenced out of the gardens.

Wilden Footpath No. 6 was recorded 165 years ago in the Wilden Inclosure Award 1850.

One other public footway (which we do hereby distinguish as No. 6) leading out of the Great Barford Road nearly opposite a Homestead of William Fuller and proceeding in a Southwesterly direction over Allotments to the Duke of Bedford and Mary the wife of Joseph Willis respectively on Midsummer Green to a stile in the Old Inclosure of the Duke of Bedford called Lammas Meadow …” And:

And we the said Commissioners have set out and appointed and by these presents do award and confirm the following Public Footways of the width of four feet each viz [continues Public Footways 1 etc.] …”.

The 1850 Award Plan shows the footpath running parallel to and south of the High Street and South Brook as it does now – except for the part which was diverted in 1974. The remaining section of the original path is in a poor condition and the section diverted to accommodate the development of Mayes Close, Wilden cannot be used nowadays.

The North Bedfordshire Heritage Trail - a 70-mile circular walk (see HERE) passes through Wilden but walkers have to follow the High Street instead of Footpath No. 6. Bedford Borough Council has designated this week 10-13 Sept 2015 as it's Heritage Week (see HERE). Swift action to bring Wilden Footpath No. 6 back into use would help demonstrate that the Council is as proud of our heritage as it claims to be.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Maulden Footpath No. 28

Maulden Footpath No. 28 - Southern end
(Click to enlarge the image)
Little did anyone know, that when a landowner fenced off his field in 1992, thereby obstructing a path in use by the public, he would be starting a dispute that would still be running twenty three years later.

The dispute (about whether or not there is a public right of way) has resulted in mounds of paperwork, numerous councils’ committee meetings, path orders, public  inquiries, magistrates’ court prosecutions and hearings, a legal appeal, recriminations and talk of common sense where “sense” is anything but common.
I wrote about the case HERE (26 Jun 14), HERE (6 Jul 14) and HERE (2 Sep 14).
And I am writing about it again now because there could be a new twist this month. Another (it will be the fifth) public inquiry is scheduled to start on 15 September; see HERE. Three days have been set aside for what is described as a non-statutory public inquiry – only the third of its kind I believe.
This thread of the saga began when the landowner, Mr Bowers of Maulden, made an application to Central Bedfordshire Council to have the footpath deleted from the definitive map and statement for the area but on 9 April 2013 the Council refused to make an order. Mr Bowers appealed to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs against the Council’s decision not to make an order. On September 2013, in what should have been the end of this thread, an Inspector, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, having considered the matters raised in written representations (as opposed to raised in person), dismissed the appeal – see HERE.
I understand that Mr Bowers then had his own court case to establish that he had the right to be heard in person for the appeal and that the Secretary of State conceded the point quashing the Inspector’s decision.

It seems inevitable that whatever the outcome of this month's public inquiry, the dispute will continue; this thread will not have played out and there is another waiting to be heard at the Magistrates' Court.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Wilden Footpath No. 6


Arial view showing Wilden Footpath No. 6 (Click image to enlarge it)
Bedford Borough Council declares on its WEBSITE and elsewhere that there are over 980 kilometres (over 600 miles) of public rights of way in the borough. What is not said though is how much is available for use or more to my point – how much is not. It certainly isn’t all available as it should be because numerous paths are obstructed; temporarily by cultivation and crops or overgrown vegetation for instance; or more permanently by buildings or for other reasons.
Wilden Footpath No. 6 (FP6) is obstructed where it passes through the gardens of six properties in the village of Wilden.
The original route of the path ran east – west until part of it was diverted in 1973 to facilitate the building of five properties at what is now Mayes Close, Wilden. It would seem logical (to me at least) that the diverted part of the path would follow a route around and outside the boundary of the properties. The Mayes Close residents believe that to be the case and I have seen evidence that one of the residents was given information, in a local authority search prior to purchase, that the path ran outside the property. Others believed it too; there are claims that the public walked an outer route, and it is said that the previous owner of the land over which an outer route was allegedly used seemed to accept it as so.
When the definitive map was digitised in 1999 the new route of FP6 was seen to be obstructed by the fencing and gardens of 1 – 5 Mayes Close. The path is also obstructed through the property known as Verna which was built after the properties at Mayes Close. North Bedfordshire Borough Council, as the then planning authority, should have made an order to divert that part of the path to enable development of Verna but didn’t.
Despite differing views and wishes, it is a matter of legal fact that FP6 runs through the gardens because that it is where it is depicted as running on the definitive map.
Various schemes have been proposed to resolve the problem, the latest being to divert the part of the path through Verna to a route along and inside its southern boundary, the new path to be 2 metres wide enclosed by an 8 foot fence and the existing (3-40 foot) leylandii hedge. The proposal plan can be seen HERE. And then, presumably, to insist eventually that the route through the gardens be made available. It is a scheme I have described as “half-baked”. In the words of Bedford Borough Council:
“It is of course, recognised that this proposal leaves the situation at the eastern end of Mayes Close entirely unresolved. However, finding a comprehensive solution to the whole problem has proven elusive over the last 13 years and so it is perhaps worthwhile to seek small incremental gains as opportunities allow rather than continue to hold out for an all-encompassing solution in vain. It is in this context that the present proposal is being made.”
The proposal to make a diversion order has been made by one council officer and the decision to approve or refuse the recommendation will be made by another council officer. I think a committee of elected councillors should decide whether or not public path orders should be made – at least contentious ones but my views have been disregarded.
In my opinion an enclosed path at the southern end of Verna leading to a path through the gardens of 1-5 Mayes Close would not be a path as enjoyable for use by the public as would one that would run unenclosed and outside (immediately south of) the properties, along what is a grassed surface agricultural access track. The owners of that land have not given consent for such a path (although, dear reader, you may be interested to know that the council, as the highway authority, has the power to create a public footpath without landowner consent).
I’m not so sure that the owners of the land over which the access track runs have been asked properly (nicely) or that incentives have been offered or fully discussed so I have asked the council officer to delay his decision to allow me to make further enquires. The officer has agreed to put the proposal on hold for three weeks (till 9 July). Better than the Old Wild West I think where cowboys were sometimes given until noon to sort things out.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Big Pathwatch - Summer 2015

Bedford Footpath No. 1 (click to enlarge the image)

On 13th July, the Ramblers will be launching a survey of all public paths in England and Wales as shown on Ordnance Survey maps. The Ramblers are calling for volunteers to help and you don’t have to be a member of the Ramblers to take part.

You just have to register for one or more one-kilometre squares and walk all the paths shown on the Ordnance Survey map in that/those grid square/s and then report what you find to the Ramblers. There will be a free phone app to assist reporting or paperwork. If you don’t have or don't wish to use a smart phone then you will be able to print off a map and survey card, complete it and upload your findings.

The Ramblers say that they will use the results to assess the state of the rights of way network and then come up with solutions to ensure the network is protected. Highway Authorities have a legal duty to do that anyway but sadly most (including my own local authority – Bedford Borough Council) are getting away with not doing so, therefore numerous public rights of way are unusable.

For example here in Bedford, part of Bedford Footpath No. 1 cannot be used because Bedford Borough Council (formerly North Bedfordshire Borough Council) gave planning permission for Goldington Academy (formerly Goldington Middle School) to be built over it.

More information about the Big Pathwatch and how to pre-register HERE.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Your Local Access Forum

Greensand Ridge Walk - Woburn
Highway Authorities are required to establish a Local Access Forum under sections 94 and 95 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Local Access Forums advise highway authorities about making improvements to public access for outdoor recreation.

Bedford Borough Council's Local Access Forum (BoBLAF) is an independent advisory body working with the Council to improve public enjoyment of the Borough’s countryside. The other two parts of the historic county of Bedfordshire – Central Bedfordshire and Luton are represented by a joint LAF; Central Bedfordshire and Luton JLAF.
BoBLAF consists of up to 22 members, all volunteers giving their time and experience to improving countryside access for the future. Members should be local people offering, in total, a balance of interests in the countryside, including recreational users, land managers and those with an interest in nature conservation, heritage, business, health, transport and access for the less able.
More members are needed – see current membership HERE, and HERE to find out how to join. Contact your local highway authority to find out what they are up to. See HERE for more information about Central Bedfordshire and Luton JLAF.
Or just turn up to see for yourself – meetings are open to the public. BoBLAF’s next meeting is scheduled to take place this week, on Thursday 5 February to be held at Borough Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford. HERE’s the Agenda.
Previous generations protected our public paths, greens and commons. We should protect them for ourselves and for future generations.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Bedford Borough Council's Empty Promises

Bedford Footpath No. 1

Bedford Borough Council endorsed a plan in 2012 to open up 15 kilometres of unusable public rights of way using public path orders over a four year period. As the fourth year begins not one metre has been opened up.
The "plan" is the Council's Rights of Way Improvement Plan 2012-2017 (ROWIP) which can be seen HERE. The target shown at paragraph 3.1.a. is to "Open 15 kilometres of previously unusable path through resolution of Definitive Map anomalies by 2016." Definitive Map anomalies is a council scheme to make public path orders to create, extinguish and divert paths which when confirmed will resolve problems - dead end paths or paths obstructed because they have been built upon for example.
Other public path orders have been made and confirmed since 2012. However, none have contributed to opening up the public rights of way network in Bedford Borough. In fact the overall effect has been to shrink the network because the key orders were made to extinguish paths.
Riseley Footpath No. A19, Sharnbrook Footpath No. 2 and Wyboston Footpath No. A11E were all extinguished.
A part of Kempston Urban Footpath No. 9 and parts of Little Staughton Footpaths Nos. 3 & 4 were diverted. These were very minor adjustments made in the interests of the landowners.
A part of Renhold Footpath No. 23 (not completed yet because the new route has not been certified) and a part of Stagsden Footpath No. 20 were also diverted – to enable development for mineral extraction at Renhold and a house to be built in Stagsden. Fair enough.
My view is that the Council should concentrate its limited rights of way resources on its legal duty to protect our public rights of way, and it should focus on its ROWIP targets rather than spend time and money using its discretionary powers in the interests of landowners, unless it is for development.
Where else is Bedford Borough Council failing?
It had intended to consolidate the Definitive Map & Statement (DM&S) by December 2014. It hasn’t. Consolidation is where all changes to the DM&S are periodically incorporated and a new map published.
It had intended to publish a project plan and programme to deal with the Excluded Area for the last quarter of the 2014 financial year. It hasn’t. The Bedford Excluded Area is the inner part of Bedford which was excluded from the survey which led to the production of a DM&S. Research needs to be carried out, orders made and a map published.
It had intended to publish a project plan and programme to deal with the “2026 Cut-off date” for the last quarter of the 2014 financial year. It hasn’t. The so-called 2026 Cut-off date is an effect of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 - all pre-1949 public rights of way not recorded on the DM&S before 1 January 2026 will be extinguished.
Bedford Borough Council set out its proposed aims, objectives and practical actions for increasing public use and enjoyment of the Borough's public rights of way over the years 2012-2017. The Council is failing to deliver.