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.