Friday, 5 January 2018

Secret Paths in Bedford and Beyond

No signpost on Thurleigh Bridleway No. 56 where it leaves Whitwick Green Road. Grid TL 04324 59026
(Click image to enlarge it)
The Bedford Times and Citizen (our free local newspaper) has published an article on the scandal of missing signposts in Bedford and beyond - See HERE. The article arises from a press release (in full below).

Thanks Times and Citizen - Bedford Borough Council has shown a greater interest in this issue now.

No sign of Thurleigh Bridleway No. 56 which runs across the cultivated field from the vicinity of the tree second from left.
(Click image to enlarge it)
No signpost on Thurleigh Footpath No. 37 where it leaves the far (south) side of Milton Road. Grid TL 03986 57834. The footpath is signed on the north side (although it can't be used because it is obstructed).
(Click image to enlarge it)


Fifty years on from the Countryside Act 1968, which required local authorities to signpost a public path where it leaves a road, many paths still lack signposts.

The Open Spaces Society*, Britain’s oldest national conservation body, now calls for an end to this scandal.

The society and the Ramblers were responsible for winning the signposting provision which was enshrined in section 27 of the Countryside Act 1968.  This states that a highway authority (county or unitary council) must erect and maintain a signpost where a public path leaves a metalled road.  The signpost must show the status of the path, eg whether it is a footpath (open only to pedestrians), a bridleway (walkers, horse-riders and cyclists) or a byway (open also to mechanically-propelled vehicles).  If the authority considers it convenient and appropriate, the destination of the path and distance to that destination may also be given.

Says Brian Cowling, the Open Spaces Society’s local correspondent for Bedford Borough: ‘Signposts are important because they give people the confidence to use and enjoy public paths, which are public rights of way and highways in law.  Walkers, riders and cyclists should be able to rely on the council to signpost paths where they leave metalled roads, but here they cannot.  Bedford Borough has failed in its statutory duty to signpost paths in the parish of Thurleigh (photographs attached) and elsewhere.

‘Although paths are marked on Ordnance Survey maps, many people are deterred from using them if there is no indication that a route is a public path.  In any case, paths can be closed or moved making the maps out of date.

‘Without a signpost, a path can be a well-kept secret.

‘That is why the Open Spaces Society pressed for the inclusion of the signposting duty in the Countryside Act and why I am dismayed to find that there are still many missing signposts.’

‘I am working to persuade the council to use its scant resources on its statutory duties, such as signposting and removing illegal obstructions.  Unfortunately, the borough continues to give too much attention to its discretionary powers of processing applications to move paths, often against the public interest.

‘In this fiftieth anniversary year of the Countryside Act 1968 which gave highway authorities a duty to signpost paths, we call on Bedford Borough and other councils to make a real effort to ensure all their paths are marked and to give priority to its statutory duties on public rights of way.’

Photos attached:

Missing signpost on Thurleigh Bridleway No. 56 where it leaves Whitwick Green Road.

Missing signpost on Thurleigh Footpath No. 37 where it leaves the far (south) side of Milton Road. The footpath is signposted on the north side.

Brian reported both these missing signposts to Bedford Borough Council in January 2015.

*The Open Spaces Society was founded in 1865 and is Britain’s oldest national conservation body.  It campaigns to protect common land, village greens, open spaces and public paths, and people’s right to enjoy them.