Saturday, 25 November 2017

Bedford Borough Council Officers Like To Do It (Part 2 of 2) Ultra Vires

Wilden Footpath No. 40
(Click image to enlarge it)
Last year, Bedford Borough Council officers made a total of 20 public path orders to create, extinguish and divert public rights of way under the provisions of the Highways Act 1980. Officers have since abandoned 16 of those orders because they did not follow the correct legal procedures when making them. However, it now turns out that none of the 20 orders should have been made in the first place because the officers did not have the authority to make them.
Council officers have claimed that the powers to make public path orders have been delegated to them by the Planning Committee. They have not.
Ironically, this has come to light because officers decided to stop publishing public path order details thereby making it more difficult for the public to find out what officers were doing but serving to make me more determined to do so.
This year, Bedford Borough Council officers have made a total of 8 public path orders (seven under the provisions of the Highways Act and one under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act). I considered them to be invalid and objected to them for that reason.
My claim that all the orders were invalid because officers had acted ultra vires in making them was dismissed by Chief Executive Philip Simpkins when I wrote to him in October. He said he was “confident” that all was well.
This month I was politely asked if I would withdraw my objections to the 8 orders. A deadline of 17 November was set – otherwise, I was told “ … the Authority currently intends to submit those orders to the Planning Inspectorate Office for determination by an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State.”
However, the penny seems to have dropped because I have now been informed that all 8 path orders will be abandoned. I await answers to my awkward questions which I’m told will be addressed within the next two weeks (that’ll be by 5 December).
That’s 16 orders abandoned, 8 orders to be abandoned and 4 that should have been abandoned but weren’t out of the 28 Highways Act path orders made over the last two years – probably a local authority record. And that’s only counting the Highways Act orders. I’ve not added up those made under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act.
Why am I angry about this?
For a start it’s an appalling case of incompetence leading to the unnecessary waste of resources. I doubt the cost could be calculated in terms of time and working hours but in financial terms it must amount to thousands of pounds.
Bedford Borough Council has the legal duty: To assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of any highway for which they are the highway authority, including any roadside waste which forms part of it.” (Highways Act 1980, Section 130(1).
But the Council’s officers choose not to, to an extent, so numerous paths are unavailable.
The same various powers can be used at the Council's discretion for other, non-statutory rights of way purposes – things that it can do but doesn’t have to, like diverting paths for instance. But officers choose to, to an extent. And then cock it up.
There’s no sign that council officers are concerned nor will there be until elected members and the public do more to hold them to account.


  1. Jolly well done, Sir!
    They don't like it up 'em.

  2. Indeed Sir!'t%2Blike%2Bit%2Bup%2Bem&th=1