With the intricacies British law has developed over the centuries, it can sometimes be said that legislation is inconsistent and self-conflicting. We believe that there are laws relating to public rights of way which suffer from these problems. Because of this, we think some Acts of Parliament need clarification to really get the law straight on public rights of way.
How we would have the law changed
The Current Situation An open letter to Teresa May
Public Footpaths and Family Gardens
During the preparation for the Deregulation Bill both Mr Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs( at that time) and the Minister of State for Government Policy Mr Oliver Letwin who was responsible for the Bill, recognised a serious and growing problem for families living with Public Footpaths across their gardens. These families are faced with escalating footfall as Councils promote increased use of Public Footpaths.The problem manifests itself in an increasing compromise to the quality of family life in terms of privacy and security and has led to suicides, thefts, damage, assaults and a recognition by Ofsted that it is not safe for Childminders to have a Public Footpath across their gardens.
Both Mr Paterson and Mr Letwin concluded that the only way to alleviate this suffering was to apply “Statutory Guidance” in the Deregulation Bill to divert Public Footpaths away from family gardens. This approach was supported by the SWG and leading specialist Barristers.
During the Deregulation Bill debate in the House of Commons Mr Tom Brake, representing the Government advised that the “Statutory Guidance” was to be replaced by a “Presumption” to divert Public Footpaths away from family gardens and more recently, as part of Secondary Legislation, even this modest measure has been withdrawn.
It really is just common sense that Public Footpaths should not run through family gardens and it is fair to conclude that debates in both the House of Commons and House of Lords recognised this fact, which makes it all the more puzzling as to why sensible measures have been withdrawn.
The stock Government answer is that home owners now have the right to apply for a diversion or extinguishment, but the culture within the Rights of Way departments of many Councils is such that they use almost any tactic to obstruct any changes to existing footpaths. This obstructive culture has been in evidence for decades and has resulted in huge legal costs, hence the need for Statutory Guidance.
The current situation has by default produced a “Rogues Charter” for any ne’er do well to invade family homes to cause situations that ordinary families would find totally unacceptable in a modern society.
What will it take for the Government to take meaningful action? – Perhaps the assault of a child by a paedophile in their secluded back garden. Ministers need to “Get Real” or they will have blood on their hands as they are fully aware of the problem.
When will Statutory Guidance be introduced? Liz Truss’s stock answer is not acceptable.
A response is required from Prime Minister Teresa May .