The Deregulation Bill – debate commences in the Commons after the Government respond to the Joint Committee

The Deregulation Bill which will change key elements of the law and procedure on rights of way started its formal debate with the few Members of Parliament attending the debate today raising issues of European Union membership and the cost of living. 

In truth the changes to rights of way are probably quite niche and beyond the interest of many Members unless they have particular experience or have been lobbied by their constituents.

And whilst the debate continues, all sides outside the House are asking for the Bill to be introduced.

Rights of Way legislation is frequently packaged with other matters which are often strange bedfellows and the Deregulation Bill is probably one of the most extreme examples of this.  Business regulation is clearly a more engaging subject for MPs.

Speaking for the Opposition, Chi Onwurah MP did welcome the provisions for the rights of way changes provided that they are all accepted.  That has been the position on all sides so it gives hope that the changes will make it through this Parliamentary process.

The Government published last week its response to the Joint Committee that reported in detail on this legislation.  It said it is expected that local authorities will save around £2 million a year through the measures for recording new rights of way by reducing bureaucracy.  Let us hope it sees the backlog of applications cleared within a realistic timeframe.

On the proposals of most interest to landowners, namely the new rights to seek diversions, the Government said:

“The Government recognises that there are difficulties with rights of way that go through family homes or conflict with current land management.  We believe that the rights of way clauses in the Bill will address these concerns.

“Through some of these clauses DEFRA is working towards making effective the legislation that provides for a statutory “right to apply” for landowners.  This enables landowners’ including householders, to make a formal application for diversion or extinguishment of a right of way on their land and appeal to the Secretary of State should the local authority refuse the application or fail to consider it.

“There are also clauses to ameliorate the effect on landowners of unrecorded or newly discovered public rights of way.  We are introducing a presumption in favour of a landowner’s request for a diversion under certain prescribed circumstances, for example where a public right of way goes through a private garden, or working farmyard, or other areas where privacy, security or safety is an issue.”

The response also indicate that it is intended to consult on issues of motor use on public rights of way and minor sealed roads.

So it is so far so good.

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