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.
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
• Goslings stolen
• 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
Intrusive Footpaths campaigns for change, trying to encourage as many people to the cause as possible. The greater our support, the louder the message!