The minefield of public rights of way

Two recent cases have demonstrated the potential minefield for landowner clients resolving public rights of way issues.  We’ve been glad to get them through these problems and to have them both say that our input was invaluable.

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In Hampshire, a relatively straight forward claim to upgrade an existing bridleway to a restricted byway ran into the huge complexity of the legislation when it emerged that the recorded route was on the wrong historic alignment.

On discovering during the investigation into the historic evidence that the route should actually run through ancient woodland, both our client and the council were agreed that this served no one’s purpose and that keeping the route on the existing alignment was the right thing to do.

To achieve anything, the first technical step would require a Modification Order to move the path back to the historic alignment through the woodland.  Such an Order might also seek to upgrade that route to a restricted byway, which our client would challenge.  We would then need a diversion order to move the route back onto the alignment currently recorded and used by the public.  There could be no certainty that either order would succeed in total (although it was likely that the route would be moved back into the woodland) so a solution had to be found.

And we have found one.  Working with the client and the council, there will be a restricted byway retaining the charm and characteristics of the currently used route.  It will take some further work to finalise the required agreements and orders but the public, the client and the council will have a clearly defined, sympathetic route and the significant expense to both the client and the council of public inquiries and potential challenges will be saved.

Meanwhile in Kent, we were called in to negotiate with the council over the availability of a public footpath which had a significant impact on our client’s estate but which had to be reopened.  Having made some initial demands of our client to open it to 2 metres in width, and to remove gates, we brought some direction to the discussions, pointing out that the route had no defined width.  The client was happy with 1.5 metres and this was agreed.

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More importantly we were able to argue that the gate that the client required was actually an improvement to the stile that formerly existed on her boundary and should be permitted as a lawful structure.  Again this was agreed and is now being implemented.  The client has achieved what she wanted and we have maintained a good relationship between our client and the council which looked at times to be strained whilst the issue was in dispute.

We will always fight our client’s corner but there are many situations where an early and knowledgeable intervention can help bring matters to a positive conclusion, saving time, money and anguish.

As always we are here to help!  Contact Michael Wood – mw@etlandnet.co.uk or call 07796 958572 or complete the form below:

 



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