Winning the argument preserves privacy and security – the result of the Patmore Hall public rights of way claims is published.Posted: September 27, 2011
We have been waiting since April for the result of a public inquiry into a complex package of modification and diversion orders for bridleways and a footpath over Prince Rupert von Preussen’s Patmore Hall Estate in Hertfordshire. The result is now in.
In 1998, seasoned path campaigner, Mark Westley made a number of applications to Herts. County Council to add routes over the Estate based on a combination of historic documents and evidence of recent use. These applications reached the top of the waiting list in 2002 when the landowner was asked for comment. We were called in by his farming agents (Savills) to review and advise.
There were a number of existing public paths on the Estate but the effect of these was minimal. The new claims, however, included one for a bridleway on the main drive to the house. It passed within metres of the Hall seriously compromising the privacy and security of the family home, and continued through the farmyard area from where a thriving arable and sporting operation on the 200 hectare Estate are operated. It successful it would require the removal of the gates that provided security from the increasing number of thefts of plant, equipment and fuel.
The documentary evidence for the claims included Inclosure Awards, Tithe Apportionments and other historic material. This pointed to the existence of the claimed routes although the earliest Ordnance Survey Mapping suggested that awarded highways did not physically exist in the later part of the nineteenth century. The material was not conclusive but it satisfied the County Council and in 2003 several modification orders were made to add the paths to the Definitive Map. An objection was lodged, and to ameliorate the effect of the claimed paths, should the orders be confirmed, a scheme was devised to divert the most critical routes away from the Hall and the farmyard.
The Council agreed that the diversions were in the interests of the landowner and made the orders, but Mr Westley and others objected. Ultimately the only way of resolving the claims and the diversions would be a public inquiry. A total of 7 orders would be considered at the same time.
That inquiry took place over 5 days in April, each route being carefully considered. As well as having carried out all of the research into the documentary evidence and presenting additional evidence to the inquiry, we represented the landowner and called witnesses to speak in support of the diversions.
Our ultimate argument was simple. The evidence particularly for the claimed bridleway passing the Hall and farmyard was not sufficient to confirm the claim, but if the Inspector disagreed with us, then the diversion should be implemented.
He did not disagree. He accepted our arguments on this crucial route and he has not confirmed the claim. As a result he has not had to address the diversion.
Other routes claimed have been confirmed. The evidence for these was always stronger but we did secure important changes including the reduction in width of a claimed footpath by 50% and the recording of a stile and a gate along its length, and in the case of a bridleway, its width was reduced from 4 metres to 2.4 metres. Another bridleway of some length over arable land has been considerably shortened by a diversion and located on a field margin where it will have little impact on the farming activity.
We have been involved in this case for 9 years and will now be working with the client and his agents and the tenant farmer to address the issue of making available, paths that have not physically existed for possibly 200 years. The overall effect however, has ensured the retention of the privacy and security for the Estate which was central to our brief.
Complex cases like these require a range of different disciplines which we are used to applying successfully for our clients.
I am always happy to discuss public rights of way and access issues and can be contacted on 0845 83 88 440 or email email@example.com – Michael Wood, Director.