Friday, 8 January 2016


Willington Bridleway No. 4 which Bedford Borough Council want to move from the track (right of trees) to the field (left of the trees) at the expense of the public purse.

In what seems like a sudden burst of activity, Bedford Borough Council has consulted on several individual proposals to realign public footpaths and bridleways arising from applications from landowners. Landowners have the right to apply for public path orders to create, extinguish and divert public paths on their land, and the Council has the power to make such orders; creating them because it considers it is expedient to do so, extinguishing them when it considers paths are not needed, and diverting paths in the interests of landowners, occupiers or the public. But note the word “power” which means that the Council can make path orders but it doesn’t have to. Oh, and also note, that when I say "the Council", I mean council officers because they make the decisions - not the elected members. Here in Bedford Borough, councillors are not involved in public rights of way other than to be informed of proposals in their ward.
Councillors and council officers say (and I agree) that the Council is short of public rights of way resources.
Therein lies my beef.
My view is that the Council should prioritise and concentrate on what it must do (legal duties like ensuring that paths are available for the public) rather than waste resources (time and money) on what it has discretion to do (public path order applications).
Look at THIS application in the parish of Willington, and THIS one in the parish of Bletsoe – both are to divert paths out of farm yards (I’ll spare you Dear Reader the details of a really crazy proposal in Wyboston). You can see my response to the consultations HERE and HERE.
In a full page advertisement in the Bedfordshire on Sunday newspaper, The Mayor of Bedford stated that there is a funding crisis and has asked Bedford Borough residents on where services can be changed, and for ideas for how to save money and operate more efficiently.
My suggestion is that the Council could save money by imposing a moratorium on the processing of public path order applications for which it is claimed are in the interests of landowners.

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