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.

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