LETTERS of support for a Somerset footpath campaigner have flooded in from all over the UK. Marlene Masters has been campaigning for more than two decades to get Somerset County Council to remove a footpath in High Ham from its official maps.
The Western Gazette reported earlier this month that Mrs Masters, of Yarlington, had applied for a judicial review to force the council to remove the path which runs past the home of the late Archie and Ivy Peppard. Now supporters of her 22-year campaign have come forward, many of whom have endured similar legal battles with their local government.
Jean Underdown, from the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales, attended the public inquiry which found in Mrs Masters' favour in 2014. She said: "Mrs Masters tied the council up in knots by her superior knowledge, which they lacked. The council looked like bumbling fools, which they are, and they made the lives of the Peppards a total misery. "Do taxpayers understand how much money is wasted by these incompetent fools in council offices up and down the country? The law needs to change."
The Peppard saga began in 1959, when the council claimed a path that ran outside the Peppards' cottage as a public right of way. The Peppards began their own legal challenge in 1973, with Mrs Masters taking up their cause in 1994.
Alan Bowers, from Bedfordshire, described the council's actions as "vindictive" towards law-abiding citizens, and said that its actions should be examined on a national scale. He said: "I and many others have experienced many years of distress in trying to obtain justice regarding unlawful rights of way. Our plight is not a vote-winning issue and is ignored by those in power, who are able to right the wrongs. "Marlene Masters is an inspiration to us all: over the years she has helped many rights of way sufferers throughout the land tirelessly, and at her own expense."
Roger Duffin, of Wethersfield in Essex, described the legal battle as "a criminal waste of public money" and accused the council of "obstruction". He said: "Having allowed this case to drag on for so long, the right and proper thing to do would be to spend the relatively small amount of time required to delete this path and then set about resolving the other 300 cases with as much speed as possible. "The fact that a member of the public should have to seek a judicial review to achieve justice is saddening. The lack of transparency over the number and nature of latest objections, and the time taken, can only foster speculation at the council's true motives in dragging this case out. It would appear to have little to do with justice or democracy."
Mrs Masters said that she hopes that the judicial review will finally put an end to this long legal battle. She said: "I have been successful in the High Court in 2012, and successful in the public inquiry in 2014. "There can be no question that the council has failed in its statutory duty and allowed the opposed orders to gather dust, while making orders to 'upgrade' footpaths to restricted byways, or add footpaths or bridleways. Maybe it will be third time lucky?"
A council spokesman said: "There are two sides to this and we have a duty to progress both applications to amend the definitive map and the submission of opposed orders. This is done in parallel to make sure that neither duty is neglected. "We would stress there is no deadline for submission of opposed orders so we are not failing in our statutory duty. We remain committed to submitting the outstanding opposed orders as soon as possible, but these cases are complex and the staff resources available are under increasing pressure. "We would again like to make it clear that the High Ham footpath deletion order has attracted objections from other parties – not from the county council. Ultimately it will be up to the Planning Inspectorate to decide the outcome of the case. "From our point of view, the judicial process is an unwelcome distraction for staff who are trying to progress matters. As long as the process continues it will continue to hamper resources and cost the taxpayer more money." See the article in the Western Gazette here.
Marlene Masters takes Somerset Council to task
A SOUTH Somerset campaigner has criticised the decision to remove well-established trees in Long Sutton to open up a contested bridleway. Somerset County Council has cut down trees at Kingsmoor Drove, which have stood there since 1989, in an attempt to clear the bridleway leading from Long Load to Ilchester. But Marlene Masters, who made her name campaigning about a disputed footpath in High Ham, has attacked what she has branded a "bridleway to nowhere". Council contractors have cleared vegetation, installed a culvert, felled the trees and ground down the stumps at a cost of less than £5,000, according to a council spokesman. Mrs Masters argues that consultation about the bridleway took place in the 1970s when the Ilchester bypass was being built. She said: "There was a public opportunity to claim a footpath or bridleway status when the proposal of the Ilchester dual carriageway bypass was being discussed. But no-one did, not even the parish council or the county council. The law says 'silence is acquiescence'. No claim of a bridleway at the time means that legally there is no bridleway there." Mrs Masters added that, even if the bridleway did exist, it is impossible for riders or walkers to currently use it because of the traffic. She said: "Unless traffic lights are made available and the central reservation removed by County Highways to allow the 'alleged ancient historic bridleway' to cross over the four lanes, then there is no way the riders can continue through. They have no permission to use the over-bridge and ride a horse under the RNAS Yeovilton flight path." Mrs Masters has now applied for the bridleway to be deleted from the county council's official maps.
The council has said that the removal of the trees was undertaken as part of its statutory duty and that the scope had been agreed with the landowner in October. It added that "the existence of the bridleway is not seriously disputed" following a public enquiry nine years ago, which was upheld at a High Court appeal.
A spokesman said: "Previous attempts to formally divert the bridleway around a woodland that obstructs the way have unfortunately failed. "We had been served a Highways Act notice by a third party to clear the woodland obstruction, and if we fail to remove the obstruction the matter could be referred to the Magistrates Court. "The bridleway still remains obstructed by the A303 near Ilchester and we continue to look at options with Highways England to resolve this. The nearby over-bridge is only available for pedestrians. There are no public access rights for cyclists or horse-riders over this bridge.The works will provide for a more direct through route for walkers between Long Load and Ilchester." The council has not confirmed the identity of the third party who served the notice for the trees to be removed.
Ramblers,Open Spaces,CPRE all support Council Spending on Public Footpaths. They demand that councils spend time and money on public enquiries to find 'lost' footpaths They are charities which ask for public contributions to support their demands. Ramblers have just won a £250,000 grant, again generated from public spending from the Postcode Lottery.
DERBYSHIRE County Council has been accused of building a "footpath to nowhere". The path, which cost the taxpayer £20,000,has been built on Cat and Fiddle Lane, in West Hallam, and leads on to a field which doesn't have a visible path across it. It's not unusual for rights-of-way leading across fields to be indistinct but, at the point where the new path enters, there is no footpath to move ahead on at all. People have also been indignant about the scale of what has been built.
Comment On The Path To Nowhere
A Ramblers Comment in the Shields Gazette 19/1/16 and IF response (bold).
I don't really agree with the comments on this, though I do share some of the concerns about how much money has been spent in reinstating this public right of way. The Council spent the money because the Ramblers insisted on 'public' rights. Rights for Rights sake! No good trying to pass the blame after the event. The Ramblers and Open Spaces 'find' unused paths.They do not have any criteria for 'claims' which may or may not be proved correct.Councils also do not use any filter system for claims and are legally obliged to investigate,pay for public enquiries and consider objections at every stage regardless of cost.
This is an old footpath, which has been put back where it should have always been. Why? When it was an 'old' footpath it probably had a necessary use. To walk to work...no road,no cars....Why would it be necessary or advisable to put back a path which has fallen out of use, in an unnecessary and dangerous place just for the sake of it? Times change! Shall we reinstate work houses and reinstate coal fires in every situation? Shall we insist that horses and carriages have the right to use motor ways because they went that way in the past?
If you walk along the path from Haggs Farm, you will now be able to cross the road and continue along the path to Kirk Hallam. Previously, you had no choice but to walk down Cat & Fiddle Lane, with no pavement, and with heavy lorries passing by every other minute, till you got to the next path. Having done this on several occasions, it was a potential death-trap. Well insist on a pavement then or insist that the lorries go a different way....or just walk somewhere else!!!
The fact is that it is on the definitive map of footpaths, and is shown on every Ordnance Survey map. Which is,of course,why the Council had no choice but to bow to pressure. That does not make it right or sensible. Applications can also be made to remove paths from the definitive map.
I know that in the past I have spent a good amount of time looking for it. It should never have been blocked off, though it may well have been decades ago that this happened. Many things happened 'decades' ago this doesn't mean they are worth resurrecting. A group of people ( not even necessarily local and probably in single figures) should not be able to dictate to the wider 'public' where their councils MUST spend public money. The benefit to 'the general public' is questionable.
Nationally, the Ramblers Association is campaigning to ensure that public rights of way are not lost for ever, which is what will happen if they do not complain. I personally raised this missing path under the Ramblers' Big Pathwatch campaign, and I know that it has been raised by others too. The path is not a "footpath to nowhere" - it is a path to Kirk Hallam, and I suspect it will be well used by walkers. As previously pointed out, blanket claiming of unsuitable paths is a waste of public resources. This path has a limited use to a small number of local people, (if any and all 'walkers') There is only a 'suspicion' that it will be well used..... A lot of money to waste on a 'suspicion'!
..............And that's just what pressure groups like the ramblers are insisting upon!
Would you like this in your garden? This footpath is shown by Open Spaces as an example of what is happening when Councils make cuts to footpath maintenance. This is the sort of vandalism and rubbish that homeowners who are burdened with Rights of way through their gardens are expected to put up with. If you received a letter out of the blue saying that the council were claiming a Right of Way through your garden would you wonder why Open Spaces and Ramblers were supportive of this? If you had this sort of rubbish and fly tipping happening in your garden would you not want the footpath diverted. Would you expect anyone to object? Well Open Spaces and Ramblers do. They object on 'historical' grounds.....two hundred years ago there was a footpath for a few village farm workers and it went through your home....it got 'lost' and now that it's been found it belongs to us and 'everyone' else in the world and tough luck if it wrecks your garden,your privacy,your security and costs you thousands of pounds and years to defend. We will also take 'all of your life' too because we will continue to object for years because we know that the public purse will fund lots of research and public enquiries(which we don't have to pay for) and you will eventually run out of money and energy to defend your home. Oh and while we are at it we will make out that we are the 'goodies' and that those who are forced to defend their human rights and their homes are the 'baddies' who are denying us our 'rights'......win win........oh and shall we ask the public for some more funds to help us?.....what a good idea!!!
A Letter To Open Spaces
Following this blogby Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, here is The Other side of the Story
A Letter to Open Spaces in answer to Kate Ashbrook
I almost agree with everything you say but Open Spaces seems blind to the small number of people who Are only asking that Public Rights of way should not go through their gardens,homes or private property. Open Spaces are complaining about the state of paths so surely you can see that this is the sort of behavior that you are asking some unfortunate people to put up with through their own homes.
My argument is that you could ask Councils to spend their limited resources on the vast majority of paths that are established and used.....even claim some of the so called 'lost' ones but just drop persecuting those burdened with paths that cause them loss of privacy,security,stress and bankruptcy. How can you possibly justify Bedfordshire CC spending £3000 on a London Barister against an old man who has lost all his money and is defending his right to privacy on his own land and only asking that the public use a perfectly good public bridleway which runs parallel about 50yards away. I just don't get it. If you mirror those sort of cases the money that could be saved would amount to thousands. I suppose I am saying that in defending what you consider to be public 'rights' that are actually no more than 'rights for rights sake' you are actually wasting council resources that could be used elsewhere.
I was accused today by the sentence " ......unlike you,I only want what I am entitled too......". He is an Open Spaces supporter. How dare he suggest that I am trying to claim anything that I am not entitled too! I AM entitled to privacy in my own home. It is OS and people like him who are doing all the claiming! Sadly he is 'blinkered' by the attitude of OS and other pressure groups who put out that they have a monopoly on what is right and just.
I am not Claiming anything....I am defending my right to my own property bought and paid for with my own money. ( which is not on the definitive map and didn't have a ROW when I bought it 17 years ago) Who would not defend their home? Who would not consider it tantamount to legal theft? I am not claiming anything of 'yours' .....'you' are claiming something that belongs to me! I do not want problems of rubbish and holliganism in my own garden. How is it that I am perceived as the 'militant' one when actually I am the 'victim'. If only OS and Ramblers could see that by helping us to get legislation changed so that footpaths do not go through gardens, councils could save money by not having to support applications for ones that do.
Comments Holly 28/1/2016 Well done Ann for putting the situation so well. Unfortunately the OS supporter who was so rude to you and wishes to *Claim his rights* also blames the Councillors as he believes they are giving themselves pay rises instead of using the public purse for what is intended. No idea if this is true or not as I am not a resident of Bedfordshire, Maybe the Councillors of Bedfordshire should contact OS supporter Brian and discuss his issues with how the public purse is being spent on apparent Councillor pay rises.
Ann 29/1/2016 Thank you very much for your support Holly. It is encouraging that you noticed 'the tweet'. Quite out of order!
IF to the Rescue
We are all delighted to hear the brilliant news that Mr and Mrs Millership have been successful in objecting to a right of way claim on their property. Mrs Millership first contacted IF after seeing a Daily Mail news article. It was a desperate situation requiring an immediate response. Mrs Millership was put in touch with those who had the expertise to help and many people pulled out all the stops,and personal resources, to offer assistance. The full order decision can be found here. Mr and Mrs Millership say:
We have suffered almost 4 years of stress from the Lake District National Park Authority after an application made by Colton Parish Council to turn our access drive into a PROW. We had lived in this delightful part of the country on friendly terms with neighbours and local villagers in the nearby village of Finsthwaite. A small group of these people, for no reason turned against us and made the application. We were advised by the LDNPA of this application and following a meeting of the ROW Committee in July 2014 this was passed. We objected together with our nearest neighbour who jointly owns the access way with ourselves. From then on we suffered harassment and misery from the Countryside Access Advisor of the LDNPA who whilst appearing to give advice simply turned everything against us. We were totally ignorant of what we were facing and we were not prepared to spend what retirement savings we had on greedy legal operatives. We were at the end of our tether when the letter from Ann appeared in the Daily Mail. We contacted her and she referred us to Marlene who gave us a lot of help and information and steadied the boat. Then we had a visit from Bernard (Hones) who guided us all the way. It became clear that we would not be able to cope by ourselves. Marlene was unable to come and help us because of family commitments but sent us Andy Dunlop instead only 2 weeks before the Inquiry. He took the weight off our shoulders. The Inquiry lasted 2 days and our eyes were opened by the people known to us that were not prepared to tell the truth. Andy Dunlop was superb and we would not have got this result without his help.
We realise now that 4 years and our problems were minor compared with others. The IF campaign must continue and if we can help we will do so because without their help we would not be in this position.
Ann Scott24/1/2016 16:59:24 Hopefully this will be the end of a traumatic four years and your Parish Council will gracefully concede defeat and not feel the need to waste further public money by appealing the decision. We eagerly await confirmation of this order.
Deregulation Act 2015
Some laws around public access and Council behaviour have changed in 2015. The article entitled Grim Fairy Tales (page 3 in the GLEAM newsletter for Autumn 2015) illustrates a specific example and identifies the modifications that have been made to help. It makes for very interesting reading!
Norfolk Footpath To Stay Put
IF Comment on this result. A member of ‘ the public’ only asking that walkers should go round his property instead of straight through his garden! Breckland council have a duty to protect the rights of an individual just as much, if not more, than ‘pressure’ groups. It is ‘the pressure’ groups who exercise no common sense or empathy and force sensible councils to spend ‘public money’. The ‘home owner’ has to pay his own expenses. We remain quite disgusted with this attitude which purports to be in the public interest, but clearly is not.
From the Open Spaces Society
26 February 2015 We are delighted that, thanks to our objection, a public footpath in Norfolk’s Breckland District will remain on its ancient, direct route. The footpath is at Lyng, four miles south of Reepham. Breckland District Council wanted to move the route which runs past the property Patholme. The council was concerned that the existence of the path was detrimental to the interests of the property’s occupiers, and wanted to shove the path around the edge of the field to the west, introducing two dog-legs. Mr Ian Witham, the Open Spaces Society’s representative in Norfolk, objected on behalf of the society and the matter was referred to the Planning Inspectorate for determination. The inspector, Mrs Helen Slade, did not consider that there was any evidence of a problem. She wrote that on her site visit ‘it took a matter of less than 30 second to cross the garden area. I noted that the windows overlooking the path were dressed with blinds to afford privacy to the occupants’ and that there was no evidence ‘to suggest that users of the path feel uncomfortable using the path’. Says Ian Witham: ‘We are delighted with this result. Many properties co-exist with public paths nearby and there is no difficulty about this. The inspector considered that, although the order had been made in the landowner’s interests, these had not been demonstrated. ‘We are sorry that Breckland District Council spent public money on this fruitless exercise but we are relieved that this footpath will stay on its historic route.’
Comments Holly 31/1/2016 11:22:14Quote: Breckland District Council wanted to move the route which runs past the property Patholme. Well done Breckland District Council! However they also wanted to SHOVE the path around the edge of the field. Who exactly was SHOVING who? Mrs Helen Slade (I'm assuming she has some legal background and is not an ex PRoW officer) noticed the windows were dressed with blinds and there was no evidence to suggest users of the path felt uncomfortable using the path. Did anyone ask the the owners of the property or any walkers using this path if they were uncomfortable? I would personally feel very uncomfortable if the owners had been having a family bbq in their garden and I had strolled through! I am very sorry that anyone felt the need to spend public money on any of this fruitless exercise, if people wish to walk learn to walk around fields and a couple of dog legs it really isn't that inconvenient, I am sure a bit of extra walking is so good for ones health and maybe the owners of the property can then remove their blinds and look out on to their own garden and use their space for the purpose they bought it for. Where is the common sense to all this?
Ivy Fern 1/2/2016 10:15:06
Common Sense!!!!!!!! There isn't any, it's obsolete!!!
Hi Everyone, We now begin a New Year; I wish you all a Happy, Healthy, and Successful 2016, As you know I made a visit to the Royal Courts of Justice 22nd. December and issued an application for Judicial Review regarding the decision made by Inspector Peter Millman at the Public Inquiry in September. [ It was a painful and agonising event, I stood in a queue for four and a half hours, they are not very helpful). The application has been sealed and filed by the Court. I have served notice upon DEFRA (via. Treasury Solicitor) and Central Bedfordshire Council. I have also sent Certificates of Service to the Administrative Court. I have made a request under the Freedom of Information Act. for copies of notes made by Mr. Millman (Inspector) at the Inquiry. I shall then compare the evidence and notes made by Mr, Millman with the recordings and film made of the two day Inquiry. I am still writing and E.mailing various government departments but they are reluctant to respond. Keep smiling! Regards Alan Bowers
Ann Scott8/1/2016 20:36:00I have great admiration for your fight for justice. Whatever side of the footpath debate anyone is on, there should be a fair and just system for these decisions. The present system is corrupt and weighted against 'ordinary' people who only want footpaths diverted from their gardens.
Rural Crime on Public Footpath Through Garden
Councils, General Public and Police all want to reduce rural crime and yet make no effort to support a change in the law which would allow public footpaths to be diverted from the gardens of private householders. These footpaths represent only 0.1% of the total Public Rights of Way network. Their diversion or closure would impinge very little on Public access to the countryside but householders such as Debbie would be freed from all the stress,worry and constant fear from crime that such footpaths presently cause. Read Debbies letter on page 10 of the South East Farmer.
Ann 7/12/2015 17:48:46Footpaths should not go through gardens. The law needs to change. This is nothing to do with access to the countryside.
Ann 7/12/2015 17:50:38 Footpaths through gardens increase rural crime.
Why would the public,crossing someone's property on a Public Footpath, believe its ok to throw this rubbish in for someone's pet goats?
Paths through family home - A Major Problem
A Refreshing Common Sense View
At the “Protecting our Public Rights of Way” conference on 11th December 2013, during the presentations and in conversation with other delegates a number of facts were clarified.
1. The call for written evidence to the Draft Deregulation bill attracted 350 entries of which roughly half were concerned with Rights of Way. The bill covers a wide range of subjects so this very high percentage clearly confirms the very real need for reform and this is recognised both by politicians and within DEFRA.
2. Currently there is great expense in time, effort and money involved in what is often an adversarial process rather than a constructive one. There is a desire to improve this situation.
3. Most local authorities are suffering great financial pressure and have difficulty affording the maintenance of the full network of paths within their respective areas.
4. It is accepted in most quarters that land use has changed over the years, will continue to change and that the location of PRoWs are not always compatible with modern land use. Specifically Defra and the Stakeholder working group are looking at ways to create a presumption to divert or extinguish PRoWs from family homes and from farmyards where there is an H & S risk.
From the above it seems entirely logical that councils should look carefully at their network, with a view to relocating PRoWs to routes better suited to modern use, diverting them away from houses and farmyards, or deleting them where diversion is not possible, and where appropriate reducing the overall length of the network to make the cost to the public purse more manageable.
This is a view that is bound to meet resistance from some quarters that just want to see more and more paths regardless of the cost and regardless of whether they are used or not, but it is an approach which Intrusive Footpaths will be exploring and seeking to promote. It just seems a good constructive common sense approach.
Users get a better maintained, safer network in the places they want to go, homeowners and farmers are relieved of an intrusive and absurdly heavy handed burden on their property and the cost to the public purse via council budgets is reduced.
The Family Home Counts For Nothing
Examples of families that suffer under the name of Rights of Way continue to come forward. These suggest the family home counts for nothing in pursuit of access to the countryside. Threats of physical violence, theft, child abuse, damage caused to property, personal worry, all seem to be acceptable in applying Rights of Way.
It is time for the family home to be classed as excepted land to Rights of Way, there can be no exceptions. The family home must be secure for the family. Here is a summary recently sent to Intrusive Footpaths detailing the appalling experiences of a family and illustrating the extent of the wrong doing:
Threats of physical violence
Threat of returning with a gun
Verbal abuse sneers and vitriol comments
Pictures taken of 15 year old daughter in a bikini in the garden
Children suffered verbal abuse from walkers who quote ‘your mum is a loser’
Golf balls thrown in swimming pool
Fences kicked in over 20 times
Loss of child minding business because cannot secure children in garden
Been off work for over year because of stress and worry of the path
Not had a family holiday together as a unit, because someone has to stay home to secure the house
Husband lives away during the week as he cannot stand the footpath and the verbal abuse from walkers
Cars vandalised, nails put under tyres, car aerial broken off
Rocks thrown at ponies all suffering facial damage
Eggs stolen, and thrown at barn
Horse lorry scratched down one side
Old boots and a camera lens thrown at geese
Chickens shredded and attacked by loose dogs
Horses let out
Caught a man in my feed room, who claimed he was lost
My son’s football goal net smashed to bits between 19.00 and 21.30
Men at night shining torches at the house
Pebbles thrown at bedroom window at 04:10 hours
Council Health & Safety officers saying risk to public from vehicle movements unacceptable but if path fenced would block any access to home
Survey Of Family Homes With Footpath
Today the footpath network is being put to a different use it is increasingly used by the general public accessing the countryside for leisure purposes, this can cause difficulties where footpaths pass through family homes.
Promotion of these little used footpaths to recreational routes may give pleasure to some but it is at the expense of many other family home owners whose privacy and security is now of great concern and worry because they are subjected to this very significant upgrade. This is an increasing problem across the country.
The purpose of footpaths is for the benefit of walkers to enjoy the countryside. It is not for the purpose of destroying the peace and tranquillity of people’s homes. The reasonable solution is to agree diversion round the homes and farmyards. This will enable all people to enjoy their lives in peace.
A survey of families with a footpath through their home shows the degree of suffering experienced which is shocking. Follow the link below to view the results of the survey.
It is apparent that there are some fundamental flaws in parts of the Right of Way legislation, the family home seems to have no place and ordinary families are ignored. It is difficult to believe that the political parties agree with the message that the family home does not matter. The solution lies in redirecting these footpaths away from family homes.
There is a strong case for an inquiry into this whole process. Hopefully the Draft Deregulation Bill can bring some sense to all this.
PRESS RELEASE May 2013 FOOTPATH MISERY FOR HOME OWNERS A previous Press Release in February highlighted the increasing problems caused by the general public who use footpaths that pass through family homes in order to access the countryside for their own leisure. Family home owners believe the law is being manipulated in order to provide “rights” for recreational purposes where none previously existed. There are many cases where a path passes through a family home. This gives rise to problems of privacy, security and intrusion where the path goes over drive ways, splits a home and garden into two. Privacy and security are now becoming an increasing concern for those home owners subjected to this very significant upgrade of use of previouslyredundant footpaths. The family home is ignored in this change of use. A written question was recently asked in the House of Commons to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as to what progress his Department has made on its consultation on changes to public rights of way that may be considered intrusive to residents. Richard Benyon MP has replied saying that they are considering proposals to ease the process of making changes to public rights of way that may be considered intrusive to residents and that they will announce their proposals later in the year. The concern with this response is that the words 'considered to be intrusive to residents' is open to interpretation, there will be those that have no respect for the family home who will argue over whether a path is intrusive or not, or how intrusive does it need to be before a change. Changing the process is a good first step but it needs to be clear that family homes are excepted land (footpaths not permitted) so there is no room for argument. This principle is already established in the Countryside Rights of Way Legislation 2000 and just needs to be extended to cover all family homes.
The reasons for approving a path diversion in relation to a family home make very encouraging reading. Below read what an inspector said in his conclusions in relation to the order being confirmed.
"Confirmation of the order would lead to a significant decrease in public enjoyment of the path between Bodicote and Bloxham, although not greatly so (paragraph 59). It would lead to a very significant increase in the privacy and a significant increase to the security of the Applicants. It seems to me that I should take into account that the effect on public enjoyment might be lasting whereas the Applicants will benefit only for as long as they occupy the Mill although, as I noted above, future owners would probably benefit too. I should also take into account, I consider, that the enjoyment of a greater number of people would be affected while only those resident at the Mill would immediately benefit from confirmation of the order. On the other hand people's enjoyment of the path would be affected principally only when they were walking the diverted path, while the benefit to the Applicants would be felt continually. It is a difficult balance to make, but overall I conclude that the interests of the Applicants prevail, and that it is expedient to confirm the order."
We have a footpath that comes down our drive and ends before it gets to our house, not joining up with any other right of way.
Some time ago, I contacted the local authority (Rights of Way Officer) and asked him if we could apply for it to be removed.
He told us that we could do this but that we would have to meet the cost of advertising the possible extinguishment of the right in our local newspaper.
He was of the opinion that we had a good case as the right was effectively of no real benefit, it's being effectively a dead end.
So we agreed to do this and considered that it would be just a formality to get it removed.
A few months later, I was somewhat surprised and annoyed when he informed me that someone had objected to the removal.
I asked him if it were a neighbour and he stated that it wasn't.
He told me that he was unable to reveal who had objected, so I stated that "anybody could object for whatever reason, even if he or she didn't use the right of way".
He informed me that that was correct and that if just one person objected then we would lose the right to extinguishment.
To me, that effectively means that it would be virtually impossible to get the right of way removed as some busybody would see the application and for no reason other than bloody-mindedness, object to it.
I then wrote to David Davies MP, who wrote to the Council requesting if we could see who had objected, under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Council also stated in their letter to the MP that there was no right of appeal against their decision.
The correspondence was returned to Mr Davies with the objector’s letter, which he subsequently sent on to me. However, I was unable to identify the person because the name and address had been blanked out.
The unknown objector’s solution though was to join it up with an unused right of way, which would have made it even more intrusive.
The right in question is rarely used and when people appear out of nowhere near our house, it usually ends up in a dispute with the walker when he or she is told that they have to go back down the drive, as the right of way has ended and they are effectively trespassing.
Some will stand their ground and argue that the right must go somewhere, even though they are told categorically that it doesn't.
I have another right of way on my property that isn't intrusive and I am perfectly happy with that.
From my experience, the process in attempting to get a right removed is so undemocratic and is loaded against the landowner.
Problems Encountered by a Suffolk Family
There are thousands of people who are or have been affected by a local authority where they have made a public right of way across someone’s front garden like mine. In my case Suffolk County Council did not comply with the legislation of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, where they did not serve the notices required by LAW on the land owner, occupier and lessee of the property, and hence we did not know we even had a public footpath until the police came to my home some 6 months after the footpath became legal and asked me to keep my dog on a lead in my own land!!! I wasn’t even given the 42 days to appeal the decision.
Terrible and scandalous yes I know but Suffolk County Council insists that the footpath is legal and now they have made me take down gates that have been there for over 12 years to protect my livestock, because they have had complaints that I am obstructing the path. It is unbelievable that the gates have been there all this time, and people have managed to get in and out of a 12 foot 5 bar gate, but now I have been bullied into taking them down. There are 3 other footpaths within a 2 mile radius of my home and they still have their gates UP!!!!
My footpath goes right up my private drive and through my front garden, washing line included. It is beyond belief why someone would want to walk through my front garden when there are loads of nice countryside walks. Having said that, since the path has been implemented we have suffered mindless vandalism and thefts including nails in our tyres, our horse box scratched, rocks thrown at our pony, (nearly a bucket full) old boots and a camera lens thrown at our geese, various thefts including horse head collars, rugs and eggs taken from my hen house. I have even had a man in my feed room claiming to be lost and a man came close last summer and took photos of my daughter in her bikini. I have written to David Cameron, Defra and the Planning Inspectorate but not one of their people have come back with any sensible answers. I wrote to David Cameron twice and I explained to him, that if a public footpath is made and the order making authority does NOT comply with the legislation of the Act is the footpath a legal one?
Suffolk County council has admitted to me in writing that they didn’t comply with the law when making the footpath, yet they say I have to keep it open, Why, I say when my footpath is an illegally made footpath. Suffolk did not comply with the Act they falsified their certificate to state that all requirements were met under the Act, yet they are allowed to get away with daylight robbery of my land. My deeds don’t show a footpath, nor does the Inclosure Award 1808, nor does the Tithe Taxes 1839, nor does the Finance Act. It was 8 people who claim that they walked the way for 20 years without interruption and as a right.
Luckily I have traced the last two owners who have both written and stated that they did indeed close the way for 2 days a year and luckily for me they have produced a photo of a sign that was displayed that clearly said no public right of way.
It is a horrible situation to be in, because I have suffered the injustice and failings of Suffolk County Council, I have received verbal abuse from walkers who shout ‘lose’ to me and my children and I have to put up with people wandering around right next to my house at all hours. The anguish I have suffered in unimaginable.
A further Example Of A Footpath Through A Family Home
When we bought our property in 2000 we were made aware of a footpath running up the drive, right past the kitchen and sitting room windows and through the garden and field (4 gates in all). We were assured that only a couple of people had been seen over many years and this has proved true during the 12 years we have been here. The path in question is quite short and merely serves to cut across a corner instead of going round the lane (most probably started by workers of the lead mine in the 1700s when walking to work and cutting the corner through the fields). The going is rough and has been blocked for decades – the path crosses our land, our neighbour’s land through bog and stream, and land belonging to a Coleg and ends by going, equally intrusively, through the garden of an elderly couple.
As we are in our 70s and have several dogs we decided to try to get this path closed by the correct channels – what a mistake!! It would appear that 11 individuals in the village objected plus 3 groups (one, I guess, would be the Ramblers, who have never been down here to our knowledge). The same applies to the individuals, many of whom are not even walkers and just do not want a path closed. I might understand their position a little better if this path actually went somewhere or was an important link, but it is neither.
We are worried about people leaving the gates open and our dogs getting out and also loose dogs with walkers. We live in a rural area and have always been very careful to control our dogs and keep them in (all our land is properly fenced). One of our dogs is not particularly friendly although he is certainly not dangerous – are we expected to keep our dogs inside all the time? The proximity to our house will compromise our privacy and threaten our security as anyone passing can look straight in – it also goes right by our pond, fruit and veg garden and across the front of our summerhouse where we like to sit in the good weather. The ground is uneven – are we expected to be responsible if a walker slips or trips? Although this is a low crime area this path means that we cannot secure our property completely if we are away etc.
The Footpath Officer said she managed to walk this route and has now informed us that we have lost our case to extinguish the path and she is sure that once the signposts are erected at either end (and a footbridge erected over the stream on our neighbour’s land (I wonder who pays for all this?) that the path will become regularly used by both locals and visitors (we have a campsite nearby and get many holiday walkers). The officer has made this final in her letter but do we have the right to a public enquiry and have details of the objections made available to us? We believe this can only happen if requested by the objectors – have we any rights at all in this? There is the simple alternative of walking along the road which would be quicker and easier.
Legal Ruling Helps Remove Intrusive Footpaths
An article in a local newspaper this week headed 'Legal ruling will help make it easier to move public footpaths'. The report stated the outcome of a recent High Court case, Ramblers' Association v. Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and others; it was ruled that a landowner's awareness of the existence of a footpath when they bought the property was not relevant to their application for a diversion order.
Example of an Intrusive Footpath through a family home in Cumbria
An intrusive footpath through a family home in Cumbria.
I do feel for you all in the South West with all your problems of ROWs being forced through, farms, houses, gardens etc by Order Making Authorities (OMAs) without regard to the evidence or using their common sense. I have just received the Inspector's report following the Inquiry on the local Fell (27-29 November 2012) concerning an alleged bridleway through a farmstead on the grass alongside the farmhouse and within a few feet of the living room windows. All the evidence points to the fact that there has never been any public right of way through this private property, but it appears that Inspectors have been instructed by Government to open up all the countryside to the public, where ever possible. Therefore they have to apply French Logic: there are only two alternatives, either there is a public right of way or there isn't; if there isn't a right of way, the assumption must be that there is.
In this instance, the Inspector has written, "Although the Inclosure Award describes Hampsfield Road as a 'private carriage and drift way', it was argued on behalf of the OMA that this did not necessarily mean that the public did not have the right to use it."
In his 'Conclusions regarding Documentary Evidence' (para. 34), he writes, "The documentary evidence that is available indicates that a route running between Grange and High Hampsfield has existed since before 1800. The route changed when the land was inclosed but the route following the line of the current Order route appears to have existed for over 200 years. However, it is my view, for the reasons expressed in connection with each of the various documents referred to, that neither the Inclosure Award nor subsequent documents show that public rights of any sort subsist over the route."
Despite this statement, and the fact that a new bridleway had to be added to the upgraded footpath in order to '...form a continuous route running southwards from the Public Road U5232 near High Hampsfield Farm....', the Inspector concluded (para 54) "Having regard to these and all other matters raised, I conclude that the Order should be confirmed."
Because Inspectors are apparently under orders to confirm all alleged rights of way in the Public interest, they obviously have to be highly selective in the use they make of the documents and evidence submitted at these Inquiries, and I cannot personally see any way to prevent such corruption.
Letter to The Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP
A fellow campaigner continues to contribute to resolve this issue of intrusive footpaths in family homes and has written to The Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP on the subject.
12 January 2013 The Rt Hon Oliver Letwin, MP The House of Commons Whitehall London SW1A 0AA
On 16 July 2012, I sent you a paper titled ‘The Lost Ways Scam’. I do not wish to repeat what I said then. No doubt you will have it on file. I have attached to this letter a summary of key facts as compiled in December 2012 by Wiltshire farmer Malcolm Read. The Quango Natural England revisited the subject of the alleged pre-1949 Lost Ways in association with DEFRA. Of their own volition, they selected 15 Stakeholders to form a Stakeholders’ Working Group (SWG). The selection criterion for this Group was to reach a consensus, which they did achieve. Repeating that which he had been told by his Officials, the Minister said the Group had a ‘balanced representation’. Read indicates there were 12 stakeholders clearly on the access side with 3 who could be said to represent landowners. My hesitation here is due to the performance of those 3 people, one the CLA Access Official, another representing the NFU and the third with no specific affiliation. Notwithstanding this reservation, talk of a ‘balanced representation’ is out of place. Natural England’s Report included 32 Recommendations adopted unanimously by the 15 Stakeholders. When the Natural England Report’s recommendations were transferred to the DEFRA Report, the 32 Recommendations remained intact, ring-fenced and bore the warning not to tamper with the consensus achieved. The Recommendations were self-serving which, if agreed, would considerably widen the present imbalance between the access industry and country dwellers. Two of the 32 Recommendations proposed formalising the function of the SWG in perpetuity, which means the 3 stakeholders thought to be pro-landowner had voted themselves into a Group as a small, perpetual minority, unable to make any impact in the decision-making process. You are on the record as having said that the presence of the two CLA and NFU officials justified the assertion that a proper balance had been achieved within the SWG. That is not true. Given their performance, I and many others would not wish to be identified with the decisions they took. If you refer to para 6 of the 16th July letter, you will see reference to the proceedings in such terms as “a bloody nightmare”, that they “considered walking out on several occasions”. We ought to call a psychologist to consider the pressures under which this minority worked. I told you what the third person said when asked why he had identified himself with 32 Recommendations. “Because I feared what would happen to my property if I had not”. The 32 Recommendations were passed from the DEFRA drafters into the hands of their colleagues in a Reform Group that was to report its conclusions to the Minister. The Recommendations which formed the basis of the ‘consultation’ were not to be touched. There is no evidence that this evidence of impropriety was followed-up as it should have been. There is no curiosity; mere apathy in line with the “that’s how it is” philosophy. The informant referred to here was the same individual who proposed a reason for country people being abandoned to their fate at the hands of the access fraternity. He said the Government did not wish to be seen as ‘tweedy Tories’. Perhaps, but from a policy viewpoint, the ultimate consideration is, which side promises the maximum electoral benefit. In order to democratise the process, an Alternative Stakeholders’ Working Group (ASWG) was assembled from 12 people countryside who had been victimised by the access industry or had bad experiences to relate. Of the 12 who contributed to this random survey, only 2 belonged to either the CLA or NFU. Fifty per cent were homeowners ineligible for either CLA or NFU representation. The stories they told are horrendous, particularly when consideration is given to the fact that those responsible for endemic bullying are government officials, national and local, supported by members of the access industry. There are two suicides, two families made bankrupt during the course of defending their properties, rampant malpractice including manipulation of the law. In summary therefore, you misrepresent the emphasis to be placed on the presence of the access representatives within the SWG and have chosen to ignore completely the important contributions made by the ASWG. They do not take kindly to being routinely ignored. No one seems to have noticed that there is no evidence that lost ways do exist and, if that is the case, why are they still lost given the frenetic activity post 1949, using methods fair and foul to account for every possibility? The literature talks of 10,000 paths awaiting claim. It is important that the access industry does provide evidence. This is for them an exercise in jobs and status. The 10,000 paths have a value within this particular scam since it translates into a requirement to quadruple the present levels of access support. Who is to pay?There was a time when you were prepared to assist those being confronted by Access Officials abusing their office with a view to securing advantage. There were three of us who made up an ad hoc delegation who had applied to Secretary of State DEFRA for an interview to discuss with him experiences arising in West Dorset of malfeasance within DEFRA. He agreed, only at the eleventh hour cancelling the arrangement. In your letter to a High Court Judge you wrote: “On 10 November 2006, I wrote to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I raised with him the concerns that had been raised with me about the fairness and impartiality of the Inquiry in the hope that he would avoid the need for a Judicial Review by convening another Inquiry. He appears to have been assured by his officials that there was no need for such action – hence, his refusal to contemplate another Inquiry. The Inspector, a Member of the Institute of Public Rights of Way Officers, had the immediate advantage and sympathy of a Judge who adopted her as his tribune of fact. The Inspector was not impartial, was not Independent and nor was the Local Public Inquiry she chaired the Tribunal specified in Law. A CID letter to the Planning Inspectorate revealed the facts had been presented with certain economies taken with the truth. CPS told me, “she will conduct no further Inquiries, she will retire”. A soft landing had therefore been arranged for the Inspector but my best efforts over the years to encourage you to ask DEFRA what they proposed to do for my family to alleviate a situation in which we were still burdened by the effects of an execrable decision have failed to achieve any positive movement from you. It was clear that something had happened in the interim period for your initial support to turn to opposition. Meanwhile, access officials continued to use their new offices to secure advantage. Let me summarise the experiences of one person from among the dozen you chose to ignore. On 13 February 2013, Alan Bowers who owns a small garage outside Bedford, is to confront the County’s Development and Management Committee with the string of offences committed against his family and home by Council Officials and associates. He will tell how County Access officials colluded with the local rambling association to establish a public footpath through his garden where none had previously existed. They used as the legal instrument with which to secure their goal Section 31 of the Highways Act 1980, also known variously as the 20 Year Rule and Cheat’s Charter. With the collaboration of what was essentially the members of one family, the numbers were generated with which to overwhelm anything Mr Bowers was able to produce in argument to the contrary. Council Access Officials were to the forefront of those assembling an opposition to confront Mr Bowers. From Council funds they paid solicitors for the sworn statements made by those opposed to the Bowers, neglecting to solicit similar statements such as from previous owners in support of the Bowers’ position. The County Access Officials came under inappropriate pressure from the Open Spaces Society and they, in turn, threatened elected members with the dire consequences that would arise if they were to support the Bowers. The upshot of this collusion was that Mr Bowers’ best efforts to defend his home resulted in a path being taken through his home, his bankruptcy and his leaving Court with a criminal record. Alan Bowers is a fighter, a good, decent man, the salt of the earth. He wanted to communicate to the Government his family’s experience with a view to putting in place measures to ensure there could be no recurrence. He was assisted by his MP, Nadine Dorries MP. He had read in the Hobhouse Report 2011 of a propensity of DEFRA officials to respond to unwelcome letters with nonsensical replies, deliberately avoiding discussion of the subject matter. In order to avoid such an ambush, he wrote directly to the Minister, Richard Benyon MP, at his office in the House of Commons. It did not work. He received a reply to the letter he sent to the Minister in the form of an email from one of the Minister’s apparatchiks, in which she said: “We do not feel that a meeting to discuss the situation would be of real benefit to any party”. It is Richard Benyon MP who appears to be the one most easily taken for a ride by his public servants. He was also the subject of an Open Letter, ‘Ten Days in Somerset’, a few months before you. Somerset Councillor Henry Hobhouse published his 2011 Hobhouse Report on 31 August 2011. As a means of demonstrating the depth of Rights of Way malpractice, he revealed details of three repugnant events which arose in Somerset within ten days of the publication of his Report. Copies of ‘Ten Days in Somerset’ were sent to Mr Benyon’s and the Secretary of State’s offices in the Commons. There was no immediate response. It was you who, on 9 January 2012, recommended Mr Benyon should reply to the revelations of malpractice in the County of Somerset. The reply made no attempt to answer the examination questions, being entirely dependent upon irrelevant gibberish:
“The Government has recognised the need for reform with regard to public rights of way legislation and that is why it confirmed in the Natural Environment White Paper: The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature, that it will consult on simplifying the processes for recording and making changes to public rights of way, based on proposals made by Natural England’s working group on unrecorded rights of way. The working group was quite unique in that it contained all the various major stakeholders (Ramblers, British Horse Society, National Farmers’ Union, Country Land and Business Association and local authorities) but all the proposals it made on changing what can be controversial legislation, were based on a consensus”.
DEFRA’s access professionals recognised that if they responded to approaches incoherently or not at all, they could avoid difficult dialogue. None of their political leadership has avoided being presented by their Officials as foolish for signing documents which are manifestly rubbish. Not one was treated with sufficient respect to avoid being drawn into their scam. The appointment of The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP as Secretary of State was net within the AWSG with enormous enthusiasm and hope that the long-awaited Messianic figure was at last among them to restore the reputation and dignity of Government. The Hobhouse Report 2011 concludes with this sentence: “It is to be hoped that those who have the power to alter things also have the courage to resist the ingrained prejudices of administrators and see that there has to be change”. Serendipitously, the AWSG had within its ranks its own Peter, Peter Sanguinetti, who not only knows Owen Paterson but also his private email address, promising secure communications. In a letter dated 19 September and an email of 15 October 2012, Peter Sanguinetti painted a picture for the Secretary of State of the grim reality of the access industry’s operations within DEFRA. What happened next was entirely unexpected, yet reveals the depth of infiltration within DEFRA and the depth of the problem: Owen Paterson responded to Peter Sanguinetti’s correspondence in the following – recognisable terms:- “DEFRA recently embarked on a public consultation that sets out a package of proposed changes to the processes of recording, diverting and extinguishing public rights of way. I am sure you will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to respond to any specific points ahead of the Government’s formal response to the consultation, which we envisage will be published later this year”. An outsider looking-in on this extraordinary mating dance between a mouse and an elephant is immediately struck by the absence of realism among elected representatives. On the one side we see a large, might-is-right contingent and one far smaller, apparently content to scramble around for the crumbs which fall from the High Table. Government is put in place to govern. It is unacceptable that this so-called reform is almost entirely in the gift of what the access industry is prepared to concede to landowners, farmers and homeowners. Their present inventory of paths has been massively inflated by the post-1949 acquisition of private paths made public through lax administration. The so-called pre-1949 paths are essentially a myth. What is presented as an exercise in identifying lost ways is, in reality, a salutary example how administrators lose their way when their motives are transparently about power and position. The consensus need only last until the mechanics are in place and ready for action. After that, the majority User group will dominate the Used who have put themselves in a position as consistent losers. No thought appears to have been given to the matter of leadership, the management of dissent and writing rules. These are emotive issues. At the 4th Meeting of the Working Group in Sheffield, on 26 February 2009, there was a belief that the matter of realigning paths could be settled amicably, until the fanatics revealed their unswerving hostility. There is among them one who is known as ‘the animal’. People have to realise that the access industry has its own defined rules or understandings. On the matter of diverting paths, the same phraseology that is found in Dorset is also found in Bedforshire, - i.e. “we will not allow a precedent to be created”. It would be appropriate to conclude this section by reference to the Minister, Richard Benyon MP. There is a momentum in Warwickshire for the removal of paths from gardens. Immediately prior to Christmas 2012, the Group’s MP passed on a message from Richard Benyon MP: “The Natural England Stakeholder Working Group represents the full range of interests in rights of way matters and you may assure Mr and Mrs Ray that the interests of people with a family home affected by footpaths are represented within the group”. That is not true. “We are very much aware of the problems such footpaths can cause. Part 3 of the recent consultation was devoted to this particular issue.” Reference to the Minutes of the 4th Meeting of February 2009 reveals the extent to which the Minister is out of touch with the progress of Part 3 within his Department. I quote from Malcolm Read what happened within a Stakeholders’ Working Group unfit for purpose: “…..the class war fanatics blocked any suggestion that rights of way should be diverted from private gardens etc. even though most ordinary walkers would prefer such diversions!” That is not to say that progress will be made in Part 3 unless the Government takes over charge from the Officials and their Stakeholders. There is an unresolved problem arising from the fact that Officials in general, not just the Inspectors, start with the proposition that, because their job is to protect Rights of Way, they are suspicious of all those who wish in any way to oppose or alter a Right of Way. I am very conscious of the substantial workload you carry by virtue of your Policy responsibilities in Cabinet. The downside is felt by your constituents. You have, for example, not been able to respond to our family’s request for help in breaching DEFRA’s defences with a view to reaching a position from which to address the consequences of DEFRA’s ‘stitching us up’. Countless is the number of people who have suffered the loss of tens of thousands of pounds spent in what invariably proves to be a forlorn hope of defending their homes against the unprincipled and unscrupulous. The problem lies not entirely in the Inspectorate but also through a failure to implement present laws. We do understand that we need to work with Government incrementally, saving the big bang as a last resort. I attempted to achieve a result by sending the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on the Environment and a Member, Richard Drax MP, copies of the Open Letter to you. The Chairman, Anne McIntosh LLB MP did not reply. Richard Drax did, but only to say that he could not intervene in your constituency. The complaint had been of the recorded, endemic malpractice to be found in DEFRA. It is a policy not a parochial issue. The result therefore turns full circle with the reality that for the moment, the only sensible way forward is through your offices. If we are to put our problem in context, we note that Parliamentarians, Bankers and the Press have had their idiosyncrasies placed under microscopic investigation. The same is not true of the Public Services. The Head of Service and the Cabinet Secretary insist that their people respond to the requirements of Government. That may be true in parts but the Lost Ways initiative, the brainchild of the access industry, has been foist upon Government officers in DEFRA using all possible means to shut out valid voices of protest. The Western Daily Press, 13 June 2012, recorded the interrelationship between Government and Officials. “It’s hard to imagine a group more useless”, wondering aloud who, precisely, is in charge. They describe the image of a Minister, “frightened to death of the Civil Servants who actually are (calling the shots) and thus cannot take any decision until they have consulted, taken soundings, held workshops and assembled focus groups, the better to perpetuate the illusion that they are actually working for a living”. The Northcote-Trevelyan Report on the Organisation of the Permanent Civil Service presented to Parliament in November 1853 thought that: “Admission into the Civil Service is eagerly sought after, but it is for the unambitious, and the indolent or incapable that it is chiefly desired”. They quickly learned that the most certain way their interests could be pursued was by using their Office to hush the noise of opposing views. We have here a curious anomaly where it appears the Civil Service lead and the Minister, if he has not already conceded that lead to Civil Servants, appears unable to dominate his Department. It would be an easy way out for a Minister who, in addition to Rights of Way, is responsible for fish and flood, to allow Civil Servants carte blanche with Rights of Way. This means that the only input the Minister sees or hears is from the access industry, past masters at the exclusion of material they do not want him to see or hear. Antony Jay, the original co-writer of Yes Minister, spoke of this relationship of convenience, albeit it one that is grossly inconvenient to those who would wish to prevent the nationalisation of their private property: “Deep in their hearts, most politicians respected civil servants, and deep in their hearts most civil servants despised politicians. Part of the problem of Government is that Ministers always take the credit for successes, which focuses civil servants on avoiding blame”. “The central anomaly is that civil servants have years of experience, jobs for life and a budget of hundreds of millions of pounds, while Ministers have, usually, little or no experience of the job and could be kicked out tomorrow. After researching and writing 44 episodes and a play, I find Government much easier to understand by looking at Ministers as public relations consultants to the real Government – which is of course, the Civil Service.” The new Secretary of State DEFRA, The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, believes he is lucky in comparison to his peer group in having a good team of Civil Servants. Those of us who recall the badger cull problem and the matter of the Ash problem might assume such a claim overstated. Certainly we are on firmer ground in airing our doubts as to the validity of such a claim given our years of struggle against unreformed class warriors. There is a whisper in the margins that the best efforts of the Officials to censor unfavourable information is beginning to fail, that country people may yet find a champion to protect them from Government-sponsored filching or appropriation of their property under the direction of uncontrolled Government Officials. Julian Sillitoe, who lives in the Secretary of State’s Shropshire Constituency, has succeeded in describing his experiences directly to Owen Paterson. Mr Paterson bridled at Alan Titchmarsh’s claim that the Tories have lost their traditional roots in the Countryside. The Secretary of State dismissed the popular Titchmarsh as a “Muppet”. The irony is, and as we have shown, the puppet analogy could more appropriately apply to the Secretary of State and the Minister. We would wish that not to be so. The politicians need support but in the meantime a welcome change would be for them to stop signing nonsensical letters drafted by representatives of the access industry. Of course questions of loyalty and respect arise, but then, we recall Antony Jay’s truism, “civil servants despised politicians”. They are unconcerned if the politicians appear foolish. What the country people crave of their political representatives has been mentioned earlier: “It is to be hoped that those who have the power to alter things also have the courage to resist the ingrained prejudice of the present administrators and can see that there has to be change”. With best wishes, Yours sincerely,
The Law Commission is conducting a review of all law relating to wildlife
The Law Commission is undertaking a review of all law relating to wildlife. This includes the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which covers footpaths and also links through to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Those that have an intrusive footpath running through their family home should contact the Law Commission to express their concern and press for a change to the law. Further information can be found at http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk
MPs contacted by those with footpaths running though their family home
The campaign gathers pace. People from across the country, who have footpaths running through their family home, have contacted us concerned that anyone has legal access into their home. The MP local to each of them is being contacted to express their concern and to press for a change to the law. The document below (Briefing Note) gives some background and lists those MP’s who are currently being contacted. If you are aware of anyone so affected contact the campaign through:www.intrusivefootpaths.org.uk Follow this link to view the Briefing Note
Letters in NFU countryside magazine
Two letters have been published in the November edition of the NFU Countryside magazine.
One refers to laws regarding rights of way but adds nothing new and shows no respect for those living in rural areas impacted by footpaths.
The second describes what is all too often the experience of walkers, that when they find themselves in a family home they are embarrassed to be there. This writer respects the family home, realising that walking these paths is an intrusion to the family and a great embarrassment for the walker. To move footpaths out of family homes is clearly in the mutual interest of the public and families living in rural areas.
MP letter of support
Mr AJ Bowers has made contact about a letter received from his local MP, Nadine Dorries. He writes, "she has always supported me and is prepared to say so! If we can get similar support from more MP's perhaps we can bring our plight to the attention of those in a position to actively instigate a change..". Follow this link to view a copy of the letter
Proposals to move paths away from family homes
A Natural England Stakeholder Working Group published a report ‘Stepping Forward’ in 2010. Our understanding is that the proposals contained in the report aim to improve the current inflexible rights of way system; moving paths away from family homes is part of that. In the Natural England report it mentions the need to achieve a better fit with the modern use of land, in particular ‘ .. flexibility to mitigate any significant conflicts there might be with the modern land use’ and leads to the proposal 6. Follow this link to view the Natural England report.
The CLA, members of the Natural England Working Group, have subsequently published their own policy paper ‘The Right Way Forward’ that expands on the Natural England report stating ‘Defra should issue specific guidance to highway authorities setting out the presumption in favour of diverting paths away from farmyards, commercial areas , gardens and other areas where privacy, safety or security is an issue.’ Follow this link to view the CLA policy paper.
All this needs to be embodied in primary legislation to give it full effect and family homes specified as excepted land.
another example of an intrusive footpath
The link below provides another example of the difficulties experienced when trying to get some common sense applied when dealing with a footpath that is clearly an intrusion into a family home and the lack of respect shown for a person’s privacy and human rights.
An article has been received from Dr Richard Connaughton, another campaigner for the removal of intrusive footpaths. His article illustrates the difficulties faced when trying to find a way forward for removal of intrusive footpaths.
The NFU recently published a small article urging members to participate in the DEFRA consultation, this appeared in their magazine, Countryside, dated August 2012. They are themselves intending to take a closer look at this issue in future editions of their magazine. Your views supporting the removal of footpaths from family homes should be sent to: martin.stanhope@nfu
Improvements to the policy and legal framework for public rights of way
The Government are seeking views on proposed changes to the process for recording, diverting and extinguishing public rights of way. Contributions to this consultation will be used to inform Government decisions on whether and how to implement improvements. A contribution has been made and can be viewed at the link below. You are encouraged to make your own contribution supporting the removal of footpaths that through family homes.