GeneralPosted by Hugh Craddock Tue, April 10, 2018 18:58:44
In 2014, Allen Lambert, an employee of the Stody Estate in Norfolk, was convicted of offences under s.1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, involving the poisoning of raptors. The offences are not in doubt. However, a recent High Court case, R (on the application of Stody Estate Ltd) v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has questioned the extent of penalties which may be imposed for breaches of cross compliance under the Common Agricultural Policy.
The Stody Estate was previously farmed by the late Ian MacNicol, a former president of the Country Land and Business Association (it was the plain Country Landowners' Association in those days, but is still known as the CLA). The late Michael Meacher, the then Minister for the Environment, was invited by MacNicol to visit his estate in the late 1990s, in the months running up to the expected Government decision on whether to pursue a statutory right of greater access to the countryside: MacNicol wanted to show the Minister that landowners (or at least, some landowners) were already providing additional access voluntarily. The Stody Estate at that time had entered into an agri-environment scheme which included additional, permissive, paths on the estate, in return for payments per unit length of path (some permissive access endures). At that time, I was working in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and accompanied the Minister. I think it was our first 'outing' with him. We thought he'd left it a bit tight arriving at the platform at Liverpool Street station with about three minutes until departure — but he abruptly turned around and went off to buy a coffee. He still made it. He rather enjoyed winding up officials. During the visit, as us 'suits' congregated at the edge of a cultivated field, contemplating the permissive path along the edge, a jogger fortuitously passed us by (proving, unlike some agri-environment access, that this facility was valued by local people), did a classic double take, jogged back, and shook Meacher's hand, proclaiming himself a great fan. Meacher loved that, as any politician would. Later, as we careered in an estate Land Rover over a pleasant permanent pasture reaching down to a brook, the estate manager (Meacher was closeted with the president in another vehicle) told us of the valuable wildlife, and confided that this site was incompatible with public access. Presumably, otters had nothing against Land Rovers though. (To be fair, greater access with dogs might be another matter.)
|Permissive access on the Stody estate, Photo © Evelyn Simak cc-by-sa
But back to the present. In the case before the court, the judge started off on the wrong foot. She was poorly briefed by counsel on the purpose of direct payments: she says (para.1), ‘after 2003 [the scheme] changed to one of incentivising conservation: payments were directed to the preservation of the environment, wildlife and habitats.’ Well, if that’s true then, to use the words of one former assistant secretary in charge of the scheme, when challenged on this point in a stakeholder meeting, for €3.5bn per annum, ‘it’s a bloody expensive environmental scheme.’ The truth, of course, is that it’s not an environmental scheme, but a farming subsidy scheme with some environmental dressing.
Under the direct payments scheme, claimants (i.e. farmers who claim subsidy under the Common Agricultural Policy, meaning nearly all) must subscribe to cross compliance, which is a roll call of most of the sectorally-specific statutory obligations under which farmers operate (such as observing the testing regime for tuberculosis in cattle, keeping rights of way unobstructed, and yes, killing of wildlife contrary to s.1 of the 1981 Act). It will be observed that statutory obligations are just that — they must be adhered to regardless of cross compliance, or subsidy, and breaches can usually be enforced through prosecution or, in some cases, civil remedies. But cross compliance theoretically gives the enforcing agencies added heft, because a breach may also, or alternatively, be acted upon by deducting penalties from direct payments. In practice, it is usually 'alternatively', if at all, because the capabilities of the enforcing agencies have been undermined by a decade of cuts, and Ministerial antipathy to farm inspections. Indeed, as fewer than one per cent of claimants are inspected each year for cross compliance, it might be imagined that the deterrence effect even of cross compliance ought to be minimal.
Where a breach arises from negligence, the penalties are typically a small percentage of the annual subsidy — perhaps three per cent (although three per cent of a payment exceeding £1m on a large estate of say 5,000ha is still quite a large penalty. Stody is around 1,700ha). But as the court explains in the judgment, where the breach is 'committed intentionally by the farmer', the penalty may be raised as high as the annual value of the subsidy itself. That is what happened in the Stody case: a penalty of 55% was imposed.
There was a further step involved in the Stody case, before it reached the court. The estate challenged the penalty, and in due course, appealed to the Minister. The Minister is advised by a panel, who hear the appellant, and report to the Minister with their recommendation. The panel is lay, the members are mainly from the agricultural community, and the secretary is an official but not a lawyer. It may be seen that this is not a structure which is likely to inspire great confidence in the wisdom of the panel's decisions, although, if properly briefed (which the panel may not be), and effectively chaired, the panel is capable of acting as a fact-finding tribunal. But it has little knowledge of the law, and may not be briefed on the legal questions which may arise in a case. In theory, this gap can be filled by officials' covering submission on the panel's report to the Minister, but by then, it is too late to revisit or probe for any missing or unsatisfactory issues of fact. It may also be noted that, in practice, the decision on an appeal really is taken by a Minister. This is not a legal requirement — almost every decision of the Secretary of State may be taken by officials acting on the Secretary of State's behalf — but one desired by Ministers (and by farmers). It contrasts with, say, decisions taken on behalf of the Secretary of State in relation to works on common land, where even the most significant determinations are made by officials or inspectors. But if a farmer appeals a £200 penalty, Ministers decide.
In the Stody case, the panel recommended a reduction in the penalty of 75% imposed by the Rural Payments Agency, and the Minister agreed. It was the decision nonetheless to impose a hefty penalty of 55% which was challenged by way of judicial review.
The court (Mrs Justice May DBE) had to wrestle with the question of responsibility for the poisoning. Undoubtedly, Mr Lambert was employed by the estate when he committed the offences. What was in question was whether the poisoning could be held to have been 'committed intentionally by the farmer' contrary to the relevant EU regulation. In this case, the Stody estate is a limited company, which employed Mr Lambert (one assumes that it no longer does). There is no evidence that the directing mind of the company (Charles MacNicol is currently the Managing Director) knew what was going on. It is sometimes said, in relation to poisoning done by gamekeepers, that a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy is in place, but again, there is no suggestion of that here.
The court was guided by the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the Dutch Van der Ham case, where a penalty had been imposed on a farmer who had contracted operations to a third party. In that case, the European Court concluded, 'that, in the event of an infringement of the requirements of cross-compliance by a third party who carries out work on the instructions of a beneficiary of aid, the beneficiary may be held responsible for the infringement if he acted intentionally or negligently as a result of the choice or the monitoring of the third party or the instructions given to him, independently of the intentional or negligent nature of the conduct of the third party.' The opinion of the Advocate General was found by the court to be helpful: 'a non-compliance is to be penalised only on the basis of the personal responsibility of the aid beneficiary, but that he need not have committed the non-compliance in person.'
That was all very well, but the Stody case related to acts done by an employee, not by a contractor. PannageMan is not a lawyer, and does not wish to research the full gamut of corporate and employment law, but he recalls a principle whereby an employer is liable for the actions of employees unless it is determined that those actions were so contrary to what was required and expected of the employee that the employee must have been off on a 'frolic of his own'. Whatever, the court chose to chart a different course. It was unpersuaded by counsel for the Secretary of State that the European Court's decisions in relation to competition law had treated the decisions of employees as binding the employer (para.35): ‘competition law operates as a deterrent whereas the primary purpose of the SPS is to incentivise, to encourage farmers to conserve wildlife and the environment.’ Well, hardly — and even less so if offences against the environment are to attract only a trivial and infrequent sanction under the scheme.
Equally, the court rejected a fairly heroic intervention from counsel for the National Farmers' Union (which obtained permission from the court to intervene: perhaps the Stody estate was backed by the CLA instead) that, under the EU regulation, it was necessary that a breach was committed by the farmer him, her or itself — and in relation to the claimant company, the Union suggested that meant the managing director, Mr MacNicol, or perhaps, but only perhaps, his estate manager.
But the court did find 'that there is no uniform understanding across Member States of the distinction between employees and independent contractors', and the principles of the Van der Ham case could not be confined to farms using contractors. A farmer, for the purposes of the direct payments regulations, did not mean any or every employee. Mr Lambert's activities could not, 'without more', satisfy 'the requirement in Article 23 that cross-compliance breaches be "the result of an act or omission directly attributable to the farmer".' The Minister's decision to impose penalties was quashed.
The judgment is at first worrying, but perhaps also understandable. Worrying, because it appears at first blush to let farmers off the hook for the deeds of their employees (or indeed, anyone else other than the directing mind of the business). That seems to offer a 'get out of jail free' card for any breach — 'I didn't do it, it was my farm worker, I told him not to do it'. But as the judge points out, in Van der Ham, the European Court did not give a farmer immunity for the actions of a contractor: it said (para.50, quoted at para.21 of the judgment): 'In such a case, even if the beneficiary of aid's own conduct is not directly the cause of that non-compliance, it may be the cause through the choice of the third party, the monitoring of the third party or the instructions given to the third party.' In other words, the farmer may still be held liable, but there must be some evidence that the conduct of the farmer is intentional or negligent, perhaps in failing to properly brief an employee or contractor (e.g. as to environmental features protected by cross compliance, or failing to take steps to follow up allegations of raptor poisoning). In practice, where the penalty imposed is at the lower end of the scale at around three per cent, it may not be too difficult to find that the farmer acted negligently by failing to properly regulate the activities of those working on the farm, whatever their relationship to the farmer. After all, if you ask a contractor to harrow a field, but fail to point out that there's a footpath across it which you want reinstated, it's not hard to conclude that you've been negligent. But it's quite another thing to demonstrate that the intention of an employee is the intention of the employer.
This appears to shift the burden onto the Secretary of State (or at least, the Rural Payments Agency) to establish intention or negligence. But not so fast. The judge (para.35) notes: 'the approach of the Court in Van der Ham to an evidential presumption adopted by the Dutch authorities: the Court had no objection, provided that an opportunity was given to the farmer to rebut the presumption (see the discussion at paras 38-42 of the Van der Ham decision).' So the Agency can presume the farmer to be responsible, but must give the farmer an opportunity to challenge the presumption. And that is exactly what the appeal panel should be doing — if only it were properly briefed. Instead, it approached the Stody case on the assumption that the estate was inevitably liable for the wrongs of its employees, and merely had to relay any mitigation to the Minister. It will surely now hear the claimant again, and form a view as to whether the estate had acted intentionally or negligently in the matter of the raptor poisoning.
Alternatively, of course, the Secretary of State may appeal (there is no suggestion in the report of a referral to the European Court). But I suspect that is unlikely, as Ministers may well be content with a decision which constrains their power to impose penalties. Farmers will like that.
Rights of WayPosted by Hugh Craddock Sun, August 27, 2017 16:50:58
|Roman Road, Sutton next Ripple, Kent: PannageMan applied under para.1 in November 2016 to record this short length of Roman Road as a restricted byway (the paved road turns left here)
A previous blog
explored applications under
s.53(5) of the Wildlife and Countryside
Act 1981 to surveying authorities for a definitive map modification
order (DMMO), so as to amend the official definitive map and
statement to add a right of way, to modify the details of an existing
recorded right of way, or to delete a right of way already shown. It
looked at the procedure in
para.3(2) of Sch.14 to the 1981 Act for
the Secretary of State to direct an authority to determine such an
application where it remains undetermined one year after the date on
which the application had been certified by the applicant as
para.2. This blog looks at the requirements of a
s.53(5) application, and in what circumstances such an application
might be rejected for non-compliance.
An application under
s.53(5) is to be made in a certain form set out in
para.1 of Sch.14.
It must be 'made in the prescribed form' — that is, prescribed by
the Wildlife and Countryside (Definitive Maps and Statements)
Regulations 1993 (SI 1993/12),
'accompanied by—(a) a map drawn to the prescribed scale and showing
the way or ways to which the application relates' (the prescribed
scale being 1:25,000: see r.2
applied by r.8(2)),
and 'accompanied by—…(b) copies of any documentary evidence
(including statements of witnesses) which the applicant wishes to
adduce in support of the application.' R.8(1) provides that an
application must be in the form set out in Sch.7
to the Regulations, 'or in a form substantially to the like effect,
with such insertions or omissions as are necessary in any particular
Many such applications
are made, often by applicants who have little or no interest or
practice in rights of way as such, but are motivated by particular
circumstances which befall them — a challenge to a long-used path,
or a conviction that a path through their premises was wrongly
recorded. Surveying authorities often provide a template of the
Sch.7 form to assist applicants (with words to be inserted or
crossed-out as the case may be), but even if the form is correctly
completed (and it may not be), there is still room for error in
getting the map wrong, or providing the right copies of documentary evidence.
Indeed, one question to which PannageMan seeks an elusive answer is
what amounts to a copy of documentary evidence: if an application
relies on the entry in a deposited railway plan and book of
reference, is it sufficient to supply a copy of the particular
intersection of application path and proposed railway in the plan, and
the relevant entry in the book of reference, or must one supply a
copy of the relevant pages in both, or of the entire set of plans and
book of reference?
But what if, as is
likely, an application fails quite to comply with the requirements of
para.1, including those prescribed in the 1993 Regulations? Is the
application invalid, and to be disregarded, or must it be treated as
an effective application anyway?
Some commentators turn
for assistance to R
(on the application of the Warden and Fellows of Winchester College
and Humphrey Feeds Limited) v Hampshire County Council and the
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
decided in the Court of Appeal. This was a judicial review of the
decision of the defendant council to make DMMOs to record two byways
open to all traffic across the claimants' land. The DMMOs had been
made in response to two s.53(5) applications. Rights for
mechanically propelled vehicles (MPVs) along the ways were
potentially extinguished by s.67
of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, but s.67
provided that the rights were excluded from extinguishment if the
s.53(5) applications were made before a certain date (they were) and
if the applications were: 'made in accordance with paragraph 1 of
Schedule 14'. In fact, the applications were defective, because
they listed the documentary evidence supporting the applications, but
did not provide copies. The court decided that the applications were
not 'made in accordance with paragraph 1' for the purposes of s.67,
and so they were not valid applications for the purposes of excluding
the extinguishment of rights for mechanically propelled vehicles
is sometimes taken to mean that a s.53(5) application must be fully
compliant with the requirements of para.1, or it is not a valid
application. But that is not what Winchester
decided. As Dyson LJ (who gave the only judgment) made very
clear in Winchester, 'It is
important not to lose sight of the precise question raised by the
first issue [before the court]. It is whether, for the
purposes of section 67(3) of the 2006 Act,
the Tilbury and Fosberry applications were made in accordance with
paragraph 1 of Schedule 14 to the 1981 Act.' [Emphasis from the
judgment, not me]
He went on to repeat the point: 'I wish to emphasise that I am not
saying that, in a case which does not turn on the application of
section 67(6), it is not open to authorities in any particular case
to decide to waive a failure to comply with paragraph 1(b) of
Schedule 14 and proceed to make a determination under paragraph 3; or
to treat a non-compliant application as the "trigger" for a
decision under section 53(2) to make such modifications to the DMS as
appear requisite in consequence of any of the events specified in
When the Supreme Court reviewed the decision in Winchester,
(on the application of Trail Riders Fellowship and another) v Dorset
County Council, Lord
Carnwath started, 'from the general principle that procedural
requirements such as those in the 1981 Act should be interpreted
flexibly and in a non-technical way. …Such a flexible approach is
particularly appropriate in the context of an application to modify
the definitive map. …under section 53 of the 1981 Act the primary
duty to keep the definitive map up to date and in proper form rests
with the authority, as does the duty (under section 53(3)(c)) to
investigate new information which comes to their attention about
rights omitted from the map. An application under section 53(5),
which may be made by a lay person with no professional help, does no
more than provide a trigger for the authority to investigate the new
information (along with other information already before them) and to
make such modification "as appears to [them] to be requisite.…"'
The judgments in both Winchester and TRF make
clear that the judicial interpretation of the requirements of the
saving for MPV rights in s.67 of the 2006 Act should not be extended
to decide whether an application under s.53(5) should be treated as
validly made or otherwise questioned: in that respect, s.67 has no
relevance to most s.53(5) applications. In his judgment in TRF,
Lord Carnwath refers to the speech of Lord Steyn in R v
Soneji (para 23) as summarising
the modern judicial approach to deciding whether a decision is
invalidated where the decision maker fails to abide by some
legislative procedural requirement imposed on it, in which Lord Steyn
said that the emphasis is: "on the consequences of
non-compliance, …posing the question whether Parliament can fairly
be taken to have intended total invalidity." That is the approach which, in theory,
a court could apply if deciding
whether a defective s.53(5) application is valid.
But for two reasons, that analysis will seldom if ever be called for.
First, because a surveying authority, on receiving such an
application, must decide whether the application is duly made (i.e.
whether it is what it purports to be — a validly made s.53(5)
application) and if it is, include it on its register of such
applications held under s.53B
of the 1981 Act. Under the Public Rights of Way (Register of
Applications under section 53(5) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act
1981) (England) Regulations 2005 (SI
2005/2461, as amended), an application must be registered within
28 days of the date the application is received by the authority
(r.3(6)(a)). If the authority decides that the application is invalid, and it is
not minded to waive the invalidity or to seek to resolve it, then the
application is not an 'application' under s.53(5) and it need not be
registered. It follows that, if the authority registers the
application, it must be satisfied that the application is validly
made, or by implication, it has decided to waive any outstanding
One could enter into a debate as to the extent of the surveying
authority's powers to waive non-compliance. After all, para.1 does
impose certain requirements on an application. Such a debate would
have to consider the principles enunciated in Soneji
to decide whether Parliament intended non-compliance with those
requirements to promote total invalidity (noting again the
expectation of Lord Carnwath in TRF
that such an application, 'may be made by a lay person with no
But the debate would be sterile, and that leads us to the second reason why.
The effect of an application is to
alert the authority to events which call for the modification of the
definitive map and statement. But the application is no more than a
signal to the surveying authority that it has a duty under s.53(2) to
'keep the map and statement under continuous review and as soon as
reasonably practicable after the occurrence, on or after that date,
of any of those events, by order make such modifications to the map
and statement as appear to them to be requisite in consequence of the
occurrence of that event'.
When the Wildlife and Countryside Bill was introduced to Parliament in
1980, it did not contain provision for applications to be made to the
surveying authority for the purposes of triggering a DMMO. This
provision was introduced in the House of Lords by Lord Bellwin on
behalf of the Government, responding to criticism of the omission.
And so the provision for applications was bolted on to s.53 and
Sch.14, without quite resolving the tension created by those amendments — why does a
member of the public need to make a formal application for a DMMO if
the authority itself has a duty to act 'as soon as reasonably
practicable after the occurrence…of …events'? An authority
cannot be omniscient, but surely, at least in theory, it would have
been sufficient for a member of the public to write to the authority
pointing out that certain events had taken place, and wouldn't the
authority (pursuant to its statutory duty) like to investigate and, if it thought fit, make a DMMO?
Conversely, why impose regulatory requirements on an applicant, if a
simple letter ought to be all that is necessary? The Minister, speaking to his amendment, said, 'that to protect authorities from frivolous applications a formal procedure such as is provided for in the amendment was essential. That a person takes the time and trouble to produce the necessary evidence and plan is a clear indication that the claim is not frivolous, and that his application merits serious consideration.' But an authority receiving a frivolous letter need have done nothing at all.
Even if the application is defective in some way, the surveying authority
will be on notice that events have occurred which trigger its duty
to make a DMMO. It therefore does not greatly matter that the
application may be defective in some way: it has achieved its
purpose, which is to nudge the authority into performing its standing
duty. Of course, if the application is so defective that the
authority does not have the slightest idea why the applicant thinks
that a DMMO is called for (in which case, it ought to have been
rejected at the time of the application as not duly made), or having
weighed the evidence, the authority concludes that, on the balance of
probabilities, there is no case to make a DMMO, it need do nothing
(apart from refusing the application).
But what if, at this stage, the application is identified as defective
in, for example, lacking copies of certain documents listed in the
application, or the scale of the attached map is less than the
prescribed 1:25,000? Neither of these flaws impairs the communication
to the surveying authority of the nature of the events referred to in
it. Therefore, what basis can there be for the authority to reject
the application as defective and to refuse to make a DMMO if
the evidence otherwise stacks up?
If a surveying authority does wish to rely on the legislative
requirements for an application, the proper time to impose such
requirements is within 28 days of the date of application, before the
application is registered in the s.53B register, by refusing the
application as not duly made. In PannageMan's opinion, once the
application is registered, the authority must, in due course,
determine the application as if it were validly made, on the strength
of the evidence submitted.
Rights of WayPosted by Hugh Craddock Sat, July 22, 2017 17:25:11
|Jouldings Lane: PannageMan's sister crossing Jouldings Ford
Sch.14 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 sets out the procedure for applying for, and the determination of, applications to a surveying authority for a definitive map modification order to amend the definitive map and statement — for example, to add a path not currently recorded, or to delete a path which is said to be wrongly included. An applicant must apply under s.53(5) of the 1981 Act in a form compliant with para.1 of Sch.14, serve notice on the landowners and occupiers affected (para.2(1)), and then certify to the authority that the applicant has served the notices (para.2(3)).
Having done this, para.3(1) of Sch.14 provides that: "As soon as reasonably practicable after receiving a certificate under paragraph 2(3), the authority shall—(a) investigate the matters stated in the application; and (b) after consulting with every local authority whose area includes the land to which the application relates, decide whether to make or not to make the order to which the application relates."
There is no particular time limit imposed on the authority to carry out the investigation and determination, but para.3(2) provides that, if the authority has not determined the application within 12 months of the para.2(3) certificate, the applicant may make representations to the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State may direct the authority to determine the application within a specified time.
Any applicant making such representations (see the guidance) is informed that, "The Secretary of State in considering whether, in response to such a request, to direct an authority to determine an application for an order within a specified period, will take into account any statement made by the authority setting out its priorities for bringing and keeping the definitive map up to date, the reasonableness of such priorities, any actions already taken by the authority or expressed intentions of further action on the application in question, the circumstances of the case and any views expressed by the applicant." This is the formula set out in Circular (remember those?) 1/09, para.4.9. For many years, indeed as long as anyone can remember, the Secretary of State would compare the applicant's case against the circumstances of the particular surveying authority, conclude that the authority was performing satisfactorily against its commitments, and decline to make a direction. This was so, even where, according to the authority's own assessment, the application was already some years old, and was not due to be considered for many more years.
All this changed several years ago, when, for reasons never explained or announced (but nonetheless welcome from applicants' point of view), the Secretary of State began to tire of surveying authorities' excuses, and started to give directions after all. The volte face was all the more startling, because before long, directions were being given even where the delay was quite modest.
PannageMan sought directions in relation to two applications which he made for paths near the Hampshire/Berkshire border, at Jouldings Lane and Riseley Common Lane, in May and December 2013 (Jouldings Lane straddled the boundary with Wokingham Borough Council, but Hampshire had the more substantial interest). Concerned that Hampshire County Council was quoting an eight-year lead time to determination, he wrote to the Secretary of State in June 2016 asking for directions.
The Secretary of State's decisions finally arrived today, with directions to Hampshire County Council to determine the Riseley Common Lane application within six months, and to both Hampshire County Council and Wokingham Borough Council the Jouldings Lane application within eight months. By present day standards, this is no surprise. But what does surprise PannageMan is the sheer lack of quarter now given surveying authorities.
In his decision letters on behalf of the Secretary of State, the inspector, Michael Lowe, duly recites the relevant words from Circular 1/09, and notes that both applications are ranked well down Hampshire's list of applications (53rd and 49th respectively out of 68). He then reiterates the expectation that applications will be determined within 12 months (helpfully quoting from the words of the Minister in moving amendments to the then Wildlife and Countryside Bill that suggest that para.3(2) was intended to enable the Secretary of State to administer a swift administrative boot to any authorities that failed to adhere to the target 12 months), notes that PannageMan has been waiting for more than two years already, and finds that the council's statement of priorities cannot be reasonable under normal circumstances if it does not deliver determinations within 12 months.
So there you have it. The Secretary of State now appears to have moved all the way to a policy under which, if an application has not been determined within 12 months, a direction may be expected to follow, and never mind what the authority has to say. What would happen if the other 66 applicants (or at least, those who have been waiting more than 12 months) in Hampshire also sought directions is anyone's guess — we can be quite sure that there would be insufficient resources to deliver the casework in the time that the council would be given. But North Somerset Council was directed to determine 20 applications over a period of 21 months, which for a small unitary council suggests an heroic rate of activity.
More's the pity that, under reforms enacted through the Deregulation Act 2015, the responsibility for delivering that 'swift boot' will be transferred to the magistrates' courts. Instead of making representations to the Secretary of State (online if desired), an aggrieved applicant will need to apply to the magistrates' court for a hearing, and convince the magistrates that the authority should be directed to determine the outstanding application. Who will want to do that — even before considering the £720 court fee, and the possibility of an award of the authority's costs against the applicant (think £5,000 upwards)? Meanwhile, landowners, under those same reforms, will get a new right to appeal against the failure of a highway authority to determine an application to divert a public path — an appeal which will lie to the Secretary of State, not the courts.
But for now, applicants who are on a long waiting list for determination are advised to consider the para.3(2) route. And for those who risk being 'queue-jumped' because of 'directions for all'? They should go down that route too.
Common landPosted by Hugh Craddock Wed, July 05, 2017 11:49:20
Is there a right to cycle on common land?
On the face of it, the answer is 'no'. Leave aside public roads (including byways open to all traffic), restricted byways and public bridleways (which cyclists may use subject to an obligation to 'give way to pedestrians and persons on horseback': s.30 of the Countryside Act 1968, an obligation which is presumably integral to the offence of cycling 'without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road', under s.29 of the Road Traffic Act 1988). On the majority of commons to which there is a public right of access under Part I of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW), the right is, 'to enter and remain on any access land for the purposes of open-air recreation' (s.2(1)) subject to the general restrictions in Sch.2. And para.1(a) of Sch.2 sets out that the right does not entitle a person to be on land if that person, 'drives or rides any vehicle other than an invalid carriage'. Let's park for a moment whether a bicycle is truly a 'vehicle' for the purposes of Sch.2.
But CROW is not the only statutory right of access to common land. Prior to the enactment of the CROW rights, many commons — often estimated at one fifth — were subject to rights of access conferred under older laws, and these were preserved by s.15(1): the commons to which such pre-CROW rights apply are therefore often referred to as 's.15 commons'.
The most significant of these pre-CROW provisions are the 'rights of access for air and exercise' conferred by s.193 of the Law of Property Act 1925. It is a right exercisable on commons which are now, as a shorthand, described as 'urban commons', but strictly, commons which, immediately before local government reform in 1974, were in the (London) Metropolitan police district, a borough or an urban district, and commons to which s.193 has been applied by virtue of a deed (revocable or irrevocable) executed by the owner under subs.(2).
The 'rights of access for air and exercise', conferred by subs.(1), are not attributed to any particular class of user (such as persons on foot), but para.(c) of the proviso to subs.(1) says that, 'such rights of access shall not include any right to draw or drive upon the land a carriage, cart, caravan, truck, or other vehicle', and indeed, subs.(4) makes it an offence to draw or drive any of these things on a s.193 common. Para.(a) of the proviso also renders the rights subject to any byelaws or other statutory controls on the common, and para.(b) enables the Secretary of State to impose 'limitations' on the exercise of the rights. (In the early days of s.193, it was the practice of the Minister to impose a raft of template restrictions, similar to the byelaws applicable to public open spaces.)
In the now widely known High Court case, R v Secretary Of State For Environment, ex parte Billson, Sullivan J (as he then was) found that 'Not merely do paragraphs (a) to (d) [of the proviso to subs.(1)] not specifically exclude horseriding, but paragraph (c), which excludes the drawing or driving of carriages, carts, et cetera, would be otiose (or addressed specifically to motor vehicles) if the public were not allowed to bring horses on to commons at all.' He concluded (para.88) that s.193 rights did extend to horse riding on s.193 commons, adding that, 'Riding would have been a normal way of taking air and exercise in 1925.' (In a wry comment on the judgment, Gadsden on Commons, edited by Edward Cousins, observes at para.9–09, fn.27, that: 'Perhaps it would be safer to say that it would have been normal for a certain section of society.') While it is possible to criticise the judge's reasoning (it might be said that para.(d) was there for reinforcement), the judgment has stood for nearly 20 years, was entirely consistent with the interpretation of s.193 expressed in many orders of limitation imposed by Ministers since 1925 (which regulate rather than prohibit the exercise of implied rights of access for horse riding), was consistent with one of the two opinions of the Divisional Court in the earlier case of Mienes v Stone, and simply makes sense — as Sullivan J noted (at para.90), 'If horseriding caused a problem on any particular common then limitations and conditions could be and have been imposed prohibiting horseriding under paragraph (b) of the proviso.'
Do the s.193 'rights of access for air and exercise' apply also to cycling? There has been no case directly turning on s.193, but the conventional view is that they do not. Classically, a bicycle is considered to be a carriage, and carriages are excluded by para.(c) of the proviso, as are 'other vehicle[s]'. Indeed, it is an offence to draw or drive these things on a common under subs.(4).
'Classically', because there have been a significant number of cases which have had to decide whether a bicycle is a carriage, or a vehicle, for the purposes of various enactments. See, for example, Corkery v Carpenter, as to which the headnote to the report ( 1 KB 102) summarises: 'The word "carriage" in s.12 of the Licensing Act, 1872, by which "every person who … is drunk while in charge on any highway … of any carriage, horse, cattle, or steam engine … may be apprehended, and shall be liable to a penalty … or… to imprisonment …", includes a bicycle'. S.12 remains in force today, and is also the only criminal sanction against riding a horse while drunk. The case is notable that counsel for the defendant quoted to the court the words of Daisy Bell:
'It won't be a stylish marriage,
I can't afford a carriage,
But you'll look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle made for two.'
The report does not tell us whether counsel sung the words, but he did point out, to no avail, that the song recognises what the law perhaps does not — that a bicycle is not a carriage.
There is a splendid exploration of some of the authorities touching on whether bicycles are carriages or vehicles in Coates v Crown Prosecution Service, an appeal to the High Court by way of case stated, against a conviction for riding a Segway (remember those?) on the pavement, contrary to s.72 of the Highway Act 1835, which makes it an offence to: 'wilfully ride upon any footpath [i.e. pavement] or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or…wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway' — another venerable offence which remains in force, if widely ignored. There was some confusion in the information laid against Mr Coates as to whether he was accused of riding upon the footpath, or driving upon it, but the court found that, to the extent it was necessary to make a finding, he was guilty of both, a Segway being a carriage for the purposes of the provision and the defendant was 'driving' it — and 'riding' it too. The case cites the key precedents:
- • Taylor v Goodwin (1879), which found that riding a bicycle was 'driving any sort of carriage' for the purposes of s.78 of the Highway Act 1835, and so the appellant was guilty of furiously driving a carriage.
S.85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888 subsequently provided that: '… Bicycles, tricycles, velocipedes, and other similar machines are hereby declared to be carriages within the meaning of the Highway Acts…' (just about the only provision of that Act which remains in force: the ellipses refer not to omitted text, but to the repealed words in the section, of which the words quoted are the only words which remain extant). In the late C19, the Highway Acts provided not just for the management of highways, but the regulation of traffic using them: legislation which (greatly evolved) is now found in the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.
- • R v Parker (1895), a cyclist was a person 'having the charge of any carriage or vehicle' under s.35 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, and so guilty of causing bodily harm by furious driving.
- • Ellis v Nott-Bower (1896), a bicycle was a vehicle used for displaying advertisements contrary to s.12 of the Liverpool Corporation Act 1889.
- • A cluster of toll road or turnpike cases, Williams v Ellis (1880), Cannan v Earl of Abingdon (1990), Simpson v Teignmouth and Shaldon Bridge Company (1903) and Smith v Kynnersley (1903), to determine whether tolls applicable to carriages could be applied to bicycles — only in Cannan was it so determined, but the courts were required to interpret detailed statutory rules in each case on what could be charged and how much. The Cyclists' Touring Club were behind some of these cases, arranging for all sorts of bicycles, including bath chairs and tricycles, to be driven over the ways concerned to test the legislation.
- • Pollard v Turner (1912), not cited in Coates v Crown Prosecution Service, but worth a mention, because the offence was committed by sending out on a bicycle a boy to sell bread, contrary to s.7 of the Bread Act 1836, which required 'any cart or other carriage' used for that purpose to carry scales.
- • Corkery v Carpenter (1951), see above
The difficulty is that all of the cases wrestle with language in legislation enacted in an era before cycling was popular, and bicycles were at best primitive and eccentric. Wikipedia refers to the 'second bicycle craze' in the 1890s (the first craze in the 1860s and 70s hardly meriting the description). It is all very well to look at s.72 of the Highway Act 1835, or s.12 of the Licensing Act 1872, and conclude that Parliament sought to regulate passage along roads by users who were not on foot (or if on foot, were in control of animals). In those circumstances, it was reasonable to assume that Parliament intended to apply the controls — on riding or driving on the pavement, or riding or driving while intoxicated — to a widespread class of users including those unanticipated at the time, viz, cyclists, as they applied to horse riders, carriage drivers and drovers.
But what of s.193 of the Law of Property Act 1925? S.193 originated as a backbench amendment to what became s.122 of the Law of Property Act 1922, later consolidated in the 1925 Act. It was enacted long after cycling had become commonplace, and over thirty years after s.85 (as enacted) of the the Local Government Act 1888 abolished local byelaws on cycling, declared cycles to be carriages for the purposes of the 'Highways Acts' (certainly including the Highway Act 1835), and required cyclists to carry lights at night and to ring a bell when passing other carriageway users. If horse riding was 'a normal way of taking air and exercise in 1925', so too was cycling. Yet s.193 has nothing to say on the subject. It can hardly be said that Parliament was not cognisant of cycling in 1922, yet it conferred a right of access which, as we have seen, extends to horse riding — and surely includes, for example, swimming (where possible), dog walking and pram pushing — and expressly restricted only the use of 'a carriage, cart, caravan, truck, or other vehicle', a class of things which, in this context, carries a strong implication of heavy conveyances which might injure the common and interfere with the exercise of the rights of access and rights of common. Even if 'other vehicle' might otherwise be said to include a bicycle, the euisdem generis rule of construction suggests that a cycle no more belongs in the class than a skateboard or a scooter. It is no argument to say that mountain biking in the twenty-first century is far more intrusive than cycling on paths in 1922: what matters is the intention of Parliament at that time.
This blog does not assert that cyclists are among those who may exercise the rights to air and exercise under s.193 — only that the point is not, in Pannageman's view, free from doubt. Arguably, the same considerations arise under schemes of regulation and management made under Part I of the Commons Act 1899, which typically confer (in the words of the current template scheme contained in the Schedule to the Commons (Schemes) Regulations 1982 (SI 1982/209)), 'a right of free access to every part of the common and a privilege of playing games and of enjoying other kinds of recreation thereon, subject to any byelaws made by the Council under this Scheme.' And whatever the position with legal rights, there can be no doubt that such rights may be regulated, or perhaps even suppressed, by byelaws or limitations to the contrary.
And the CROW right of access, which is excluded from a person who, 'drives or rides any vehicle other than an invalid carriage'? Well, in R v Parker, which we met above, a cyclist was a person 'having the charge of any carriage or vehicle' under s.35 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, although I have not seen a report of the case to ascertain whether the court found that a bicycle was both a carriage and a vehicle. But the CROW restrictions on the right of access in Sch.2 to CROW are imported largely unchanged from the Second Schedule to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, where they applied to land to which access was conferred under an access agreement or order. What is notable about that Second Schedule, however, is a certain assonance with the approach in section 193 of the 1925 Act: neither provision expressly refers to horse riding or cycling. There is no parallel in the Second Schedule to the 1949 Act to para.1(c) in Sch.2 to CROW, which excludes a person who, 'has with him any animal other than a dog' — although the Second Schedule does exclude a person who, 'takes, or allows to enter or remain, any dog not under proper control'. Just as we may infer that the 1925 Act and 1949 Act rights are available to horse riders for want of an exclusion where one might be expected, so the exclusion of carriages (in the 1925 Act) and vehicles (in the 1949 Act) is not necessarily intended to exclude cyclists from enjoying those same rights. Whether the same argument can be spun forward into the CROW Act is another matter. For what it's worth, I can confirm that the small team of civil servants involved in drafting Part I of the CROW Bill did expect cycling to be excluded by virtue of the reference to vehicles. But we shall need a doughty successor to Robert Billson to answer these questions for certain.
Rights of WayPosted by Hugh Craddock Sun, December 11, 2016 15:23:29
The diversion of public
highways, and particularly public paths, is commonplace. Path
diversions are generally made by administrative order under s.119
of the Highways Act 1980, or s.257
of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990: the procedure is relatively inexpensive, and
usually successful (if success is equated with the order being
confirmed). Even before
of the National Parks and Access
to the Countryside Act 1949 first conferred such administrative
powers on highway authorities, it had always been possible to divert
a highway (of any description) by an order of the magistrates' court (and still is, under
of the Highways Act 1980). So it is that many highways which exist
today have been diverted at some point
in their history. Sometimes, that diversion may have taken place so
long ago that no record exists of the diversion, and no available map
is sufficiently old to show its former alignment (but perhaps a
slightly sunken track by an old hedgerow may suggest the original way
today). More often, in relation to public paths, the highway
authority will have diverted the way after the definitive map and
statement was drawn up in the 1950s.
But what if a path,
recorded on the definitive map as a public footpath, and diverted
under s.119 of the 1980 Act, turns out after the event to host
'higher' rights than those recorded? What is the effect of the order
on those rights which were latent at the time of the order, but
Surprising to report, there seems to be no authority on the question. In
Brand & Brand v Philip Lund (Consultants) Ltd, an action which successfully
proved (at least between the parties) that Ramscote Lane in the Chilterns was a public carriageway,
HH Judge Paul Baker QC notes that, "an order was made diverting the track so that it now runs round the edge of the wood. The order was made under the Highways Act 1959 section 111, which is now the Highways Act 1980 section 119. …By adopting the plan in the statement of claim, Lund Consultants appear to accept the efficacy of this order as regards the route of any vehicular way it may be able to establish. I have had no argument on that particular point." At that time, s.119 conferred powers to divert only a footpath or a bridleway, and indeed, the order made by the council referred to a bridleway. However, in discussion between the bench and counsel after judgment was handed down, it was realised that, if an order was to be made declaring a vehicular right of way along Ramscote Lane, it was necessary to decide whether the right of way existed along the original way, or the replacement way following the diversion. The judge concludes that, "the common-sense of this is that, once there has been a diversion, whatever rights there were over the road are diverted. Just a quick look at the relevant section of the Highways Act would seem to show nothing that precluded that view." It seems that counsel for Lund was denied an opportunity to make further representations on that point later at a resumed hearing later in the day, but as his client got his declaration of a vehicular right of way over the replacement way, he might not have been too disappointed about that (although the width of it was tight: 6ft at one point). So the vires of the diversion order was not seriously challenged by any of the parties. Which is a pity. For, so far as I am aware, this is the only reported case even to touch on the question. In due course, following the trial, the 'bridleway' became shown on the definitive map as a byway open to all traffic throughout: you can see here where the byway now follows the edge of the wood where it formerly passed through adjacent fields.
|Public footpath along Tenchleys Lane, near Limpsfield Chart, Surrey.
The public footpath formerly followed the course of the Lane through the gate to left
and through the garden of Tenchleys Barn. Following a recent diversion, it now
follows what, at the time this photograph was taken, was marked as an
'alternative path'. What if Tenchleys Lane were now proven to be a bridleway?
In fact, an attempt to demonstrate just that failed in 2015 (see Pannageman's report).
For any way with
unrecorded higher rights diverted by order so as to expressly address
only the recorded rights, there must be at least five conceivable
outcomes (in this exploration, I refer to the original way as such,
and the diverted way as the replacement way):
- • The order is
effective, and unrecorded rights are lost. The order stops up the
original way (of whatever status), and creates the replacement way
of the status set out in the order.
- • The order is
effective, and the replacement way is of the status of the
unrecorded rights. The order stops up the original way (of whatever
status), and creates the replacement way of the same status
commensurate with the unrecorded rights formerly embodied in the
- • The order is
effective, but unrecorded rights are preserved. The order stops up
the original way only so far as provided in the order, but the
higher unrecorded rights are retained along the original way. The
order creates the replacement way of the status set out in the
- • The order is
effective, but only so as to create the replacement way. The order
does not stop up the original way, and creates the replacement way
of the status set out in the order.
- • The order is
ineffective. The original way continues to subsist, and the
replacement way has no legal status (unless, perhaps, it has been in
use for so long that it is deemed to have been dedicated).
None of these options
is a particularly attractive one to apply to every possible case,
which is why it is hard to formulate principles which can be
universally applied. That is not to say that a court should or would
adopt principles tailored to the particular circumstances — it
ought to be possible to discern some general principles which would
apply in every like case. But the approach which a court might apply
in a case which comes before it might well be influenced by the
circumstances — even though the legal principles, enunciated in
that case, but applied in a similar case with different
circumstances, might produce unfortunate results.
Let's illustrate these
circumstances with three examples, each of which contemplates the
diversion of a footpath subsequently discovered, thanks to historic
evidence, to be (or at least, to have been) a bridleway. First,
consider a way which is diverted out of a cross-field alignment so
that the replacement way runs along the farm drive. In these
circumstances, there is no practical reason why the replacement way,
a farm drive, should not serve as a bridleway instead of a footpath.
What if the original
footpath were diverted to pass through a new housing estate, so that
the replacement way were designated with a width of one metre, and
were enclosed by two metre high panel fencing on both sides? In
these circumstances, the redesignation of the replacement way as a
bridleway would be highly unsatisfactory, being of insufficient width
to pass two horses. Yet the original way might now be lost under the
housing development, and incapable of being resurrected.
Practicality (from the landowner's perspective) desires that the
higher, bridleway, rights, should have been extinguished without
For our third example,
imagine a footpath which is diverted out of a farm yard and onto an
elaborate detour around the farm buildings, on a narrow alignment
with a width of less than one metre, and several stiled crossings of
farm access routes. As in the second example, the replacement way is
entirely unsuited to use as a bridleway: it is indeed physically
impossible to use it as such, and there is no warrant to dismantle
the stiles which are lawfully set out as limitations in the diversion
order. But, much as the farmer might regret the resurrection of the
original way through the farm yard, it is still physically practicable
to pass that way, even if it is not particularly welcome to the farmer.
So a court could hardly
help but be influenced by the circumstances of a case which comes
before it. What of the legal principles which it should apply?
In every case, an order
has been made that purports to divert a way which is not as it is
described. That constitutes one inevitable defect in the order,
which is a failure of description, but there is a second possible
defect, which is an absence of powers. If a public path diversion
order is made by a local authority under s.119 of the Highways Act
1980, the authority has a power to divert by order any public
footpath, bridleway or restricted byway (the last owing to amendment of s.119 by SI 2006/1177, r.2 and the
in accordance with the requirements of the 1980 Act. What if the original way turns out to
have been a carriageway over which rights for mechanically propelled
vehicles endure (in effect, what might properly be recorded as a
byway open to all traffic)? The authority has no power to divert
such a carriageway. The order may have been duly advertised,
processed and confirmed, but it remains that the order purports to do
what the authority has no power to do. Will a court, advised of the
error long after the date of confirmation, leave such an order
undisturbed notwithstanding that it was, and remains, blatantly ultra
vires? In R (Andrews)
v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(generally referred to as Andrews 1), the High Court was eager to
rescind an unlawful award of a public path in an inclosure award made
nearly two centuries earlier, on the ground that the inclosure
commissioners had no power to make the award. That decision was
subsequently overturned, over twenty years later, in Andrews
2 (see Pannageman's
final comment on the case), but only on the ground that
the commissioners did
have the necessary powers: the Court of Appeal left undisturbed the
finding of the original court that it was proper to revisit the
question of powers after such a long elapse of time. Would an ultra
public path order be equally vulnerable to rescission?
Para.4 of Sch.2 to the 1980 Act (applied by
para.5 of Sch.6) provides that, after the expiry of the six week period for statutory
challenge, an order may not, "be questioned in any legal proceedings whatever" — but there
was a similar ouster clause in Andrews 1. It must
be said that the question of the ultra vires
exercise of powers by public bodies could, and does, fill a
substantial part of a legal text book, Andrews
cannot be considered, by a long way, the final word on the subject,
and I do not intend to explore the point further here. But it is a
vexed question surely because, whatever the circumstances, it is
unattractive to apply the same rules in every one of a substantial
number of highly diverse cases.
however, a public path diversion order will not have purported to
extinguish rights for mechanically propelled vehicles. Far more
likely is that the rights addressed in the order are within the scope
of s.119 (i.e.
the original footpath is subsequently discovered to be a historic
bridleway or restricted byway, or the original bridleway is
subsequently discovered to be a historic restricted byway), but the
order is defective in adverting to the original way as only a
footpath or bridleway (as the case may be). In such a case, the
order is defective, in that it purports to extinguish something
inferior to the true status of the original way, and to set out a new
way which is equally inferior. But this time, there is no doubt that
the authority had a power
to divert the way according to its proper status, even though it did
not properly exercise the powers, nor invite objections on that
basis. And while the order is defective, the legislation seems to
make the position clear: s.119(1)(b) provides that the council may,
by order, "extinguish, as from such date as may be specified…,
the public right of way over so much of the path or way as appears to
the council requisite as aforesaid." This provision does not
provide for the extinguishment of whatever is specified in the order
(be it a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway), but the
extinguishment of the 'public right of way'. A court might find the
comprehensive scope of that provision seductive in determining the
effect of the order on previously undiscovered higher rights.
there is no compensating solace in s.119(1)(a). This enables the
council, by order, to "create, as from such date as may be
specified in the order, any such new footpath or bridleway as appears
to the council requisite for effecting the diversion". There is
no flex in those words to infer that, despite the authority's error
in specifying the creation of a footpath, the legislation has
actually operated to create a bridleway (or a restricted byway, as
the case may be). My belief, albeit on fairly meagre provision, and
in the absence of a compelling set of practical considerations to
direct the court to a different conclusion, is that, provided that
the order could lawfully stop up the original way, it will be taken
to have done so — and that the replacement way will be precisely as
specified in the order, and no more.
Of course, different legal mechanisms may lead to different outcomes.
If the way was diverted by order of the magistrates' court under
s.116 of the 1980 Act, the magistrates had undoubted power to divert
and stop up any highway, and I would conclude that, even if the
original way was described only as a footpath or bridleway, but was
subsequently established to be a carriageway for all vehicles, the
order will be taken to be effective in the terms described in the
But that is to decide only between the first two of the conceivable
alternatives set out earlier in this blog. What of the other three?
In my view, they are conceivable alternatives — but barely so.
Alternative three contemplates the designation of the original way as
a class of highway unknown to the common law: a bridleway over which
there exist no rights on foot, or a restricted byway over which there
exist no rights on foot, and perhaps no rights on horseback or on
cycle (depending on the terms of the diversion order). Such highways
are not entirely alien: motorways and some roads subject to traffic
regulations orders are prohibited to 'inferior' classes of traffic —
but these highways have been so designated for coherent reasons. I
find it impossible to imagine how a bridleway available to horse riders but unavailable to
pedestrians could make sense. If,
however, one conceives that the original way endures without any restriction on the
classes of traffic which may use it, then that is alternative four… .
Alternative four is superficially more attractive from a public
interest perspective: the original way is found to endure, as does
the replacement way. But it has little support from the legislation,
nor from logic. The landowner will suffer a 'triple whammy': once
the error has been identified, not only is the original way
resurrected long after it was purported to be extinguished by order,
but it is now found to carry higher rights than previously manifest —
and the landowner is also lumbered by the replacement way too (it
will be small solace that the replacement way has only the status set
out in the order).
Alternative five might be equally acceptable to the public: the order
is deemed to be of no effect whatsoever. Given that the order was
defective (we assume here it was not wholly ultra vires), that
might not seem unreasonable — but flaws in the procedural process
do not necessarily void the action taken by a public body. And in
terms of practical realities, it is perhaps the outcome least likely
to make sense, in that the original way may long since have been
developed on the assumption that it has ceased to exist, and the
public will have used the replacement way as if they had a right to
do so. Indeed, throwing open the replacement way for public use
might be taken to amount to common law dedication of a right of way,
were it not that in the ordinary course of events, the order
expressly creates the right of way. In
Powell and Irani v the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
and Doncaster Borough Council
by Pannageman), the court
found that a way which had been used by the public long after it had
been diverted elsewhere, had come into being through presumed
dedication, even though the landowner might have assumed he had no
power to interfere with use of the way because it was still shown
incorrectly on its original alignment on the definitive map. So
alternative five might, in many cases, be indistinguishable from
alternative four: both may lead, after a sufficiently long interval,
to the establishment of public rights over both the original and
If this analysis turns out to be correct, it has significant
implications for research to identify and record, on the definitive
map and statement, under-recorded rights of way. For if the
candidate right of way was previously diverted with only the status
then apparent, it may be that any application to 'upgrade' the way
cannot succeed, at least in respect of the original way stopped up.
Given how widespread is the diversion of public rights of way, this
may be a significant impediment to such research.
Rights of WayPosted by Hugh Craddock Fri, November 11, 2016 11:32:38
Those who have ventured from the Pannageman blog
into the web pages mentioned in About the author opposite may have
stumbled upon the 'Applications' suite of pages.
This reflects a personal interest in rights of way
research, and catalogues a number of applications, and draft
applications, to add to the official record various unrecorded public
rights of way, and in one case, common land, largely focused on East
Kent. I'm sometimes asked what inspired me to embark on research in
this area, given that I live in Surrey. So here goes.
I've always been fascinated by Britain's rights of
way network, and a keen walker and rider. But rights of way research
— researching, documenting and applying for the recording of public
paths which escaped the creation of the definitive map of rights of
way in the 1950s — is a more recent interest. I first got involved
in identifying the historic character of a route in Fetcham, Surrey,
which I and others from our livery stables had ridden for years, but
had lately attracted criticism from some locals because of its
recorded status as footpath. Research in the late 1990s demonstrated
that the 'footpath' was an old road, part of Kennel Lane, which had
been eclipsed by development of housing, and escaped being tarred in
the industrious period between the two World Wars when most public
roads were visited by the tar painting gang. The county council
compromised by obtaining an order from the magistrates' court to stop
up the road subject to bridleway rights, and today, the route is
recorded as a public
|Unsealed former carriage road bridge on Kennel Lane, Fetcham
Fast forward to the present decade, and I embarked
on some research on the Hampshire and Berkshire border, near
Bramshill, to identify two restricted byways (carriageways over which
rights for mechanically propelled vehicles have been extinguished) in
an area where my sister lives, and which I have frequented on many
walks and a few rides over the years. Two applications for these
restricted byways to be recorded on the definitive map were made in
2013: these and subsequent applications can be viewed here.
In 2013, a friend who had been walking in East
Kent ventured down the minor road to sequestered Knowlton village to
view St Clement's church, a redundant church under the care of the
Churches Conservation Trust. The Ordnance Survey Explorer map at
that time (and still,
at the time of writing), showed the continuation of Knowlton Lane
past the church as a 'yellow road' for about 100 metres — usually a
good indication of public status, but the visitor was confronted by a sign
which read 'Private: No public right of way'. Knowing that I'd be
interested in the contrast between map and reality, he passed on the
It didn't take me long, even from desk-top
research, to conclude that there was something missing from the map.
A little east from Knowlton, beyond the end of that 'yellow road', the Explorer map shows a public
footpath, beginning at the parish boundary, east towards Thornton
Lane; moreover, the Ordnance Survey marks the way 'Black Lane' — as
it has ever since the first large scale map was published in 1872.
Enquiries to the county council revealed that, when the definitive
map was drawn up in the early 1950s, there was confusion about
whether the way between St Clement's church and the parish boundary
was a public road, which did not need to be recorded on the
definitive map, and the parish of Goodnestone did not claim it. Over
the years since then, research has shown that Black Lane is an old
road or bridle-road of some significance, frequently referred to in
the C18 as the main route between Canterbury and Deal. An
application for Black Lane to be recorded on the definitive map was
made in 2015, with 39 pieces of evidence (though some of the C18 maps
are distinctly unhelpful).
At that time, I concentrated on researching the
background to Black Lane (and the background is voluminous: the tally
of 39 has now reached 50). But the nature of rights of way research
is that one thing leads to another. As one trawls the archives, it
is impossible not to notice clear indications that the status of
other ways has been under-recorded (typically, roads or bridleways as
footpaths), or that such ways have been omitted altogether. As an
example, the tithe map of Eastry, across which Black Lane runs, shows
Black Lane as a distinct track or road. But it also marked two other
ways as 'bridleway' — one of which is not recorded on the
definitive map at all, and one of which is recorded only as a
footpath. Such evidence is not conclusive of the status of a way as
a public bridleway: it might be argued that the tithe map was not
drafted with the purpose of identifying public paths, or that the
bridleway was no more than a private right of way (though private bridleways are a rare thing outside inclosure awards). It does, however,
inspire further research in pursuit of corroboration.
|Black Lane, Knowlton, between Thornton Lane and the dismantled East Kent
Light Railway. Of the 2,930m applied for, this short stretch is the only (barely) accessible part — on foot.
Over several years, I have acquired perhaps 25GB
of maps, documents and registers covering the former Eastry rural
district council's area, from visits to the Kent County Archives, the
National Archives, the British Library and the Canterbury Cathedral Archives. All four have been hugely helpful, and I am also grateful to the British Horse
Society's Kent area for reimbursing my expenses in gathering the
data, and Phil Wadey's and Sarah Bucks' Restoring the Record for guidance.
The consequence is that it is now possible to form a preliminary
view on the historic case for any particular way in that area, on the
basis of desk-top research drawing on data already accumulated.
These data are never the full story: it is often possible to identify
further historic documents specific to a particular parish or manor.
An estate plan or parish map may provide key evidence, and this will
still require additional visits to the archives. But the key
building blocks for an application are in place. I have made four
applications for ways in East Kent at the time of writing. Three
more are in the pipeline, and others may follow.
I was asked by a friend whether I thought about
the landowners whose land these ways cross. All of the ways applied
for to date cross agricultural or grazing land: in my view, acquiring
land brings with it responsibilities as well as benefits. Land has
always been subject to often hidden obligations: both private and
public rights of way, other easements, rights to light, rights of
common and other profits à prendre,
even the obligation to maintain the chancel of the church or to maintain a public road. These
obligations have been pared away over recent years: some of them must
now be registered by the beneficiary against the registered title to
the land, while the scope to enforce unregistered easements is now
somewhat more restricted than previously. But public rights of way, even
those not recorded in the definitive map, are not entirely hidden: a
cursory look at historic large scale Ordnance Survey maps (now
available on-line) will reveal many apparently public paths which, if
sufficient other evidence exists, may be the subject of a future
application. Consultants are available who will carry out more
detailed research for a fee, in anticipation of a prospective
purchase. To date, none of my applications has intruded on 'private
space': a home or its immediate grounds — but even if one does in
future, new powers available to local authorities under the
Deregulation Act 2015 will enable authorities to negotiate with
landowner to agree a diversion order (known as a modification consent
order) as part of the recording process.
Why were these paths not recorded on the definitive map? The Dover
Express and East Kent News
for 4 August 1950 records a parish meeting in Adisham to discuss the
parish survey to inform the new definitive map. The report says
that: "A large map of the Parish was closely scrutinised,
showing 13 footpaths and 12 bridle roads. Each path and bridle road
was dealt with individually, and, of 13 paths, it was agreed that 7
were necessary, 2 necessary for part of their length and that 4 no
longer had any useful purpose. Of the 12 bridle roads, 7 were
considered to be still serving a use [sic]
purpose, 2 for part of their length and 3 were considered of no use
whatever." It remains to be seen whether, in fact, those 3 or 5
bridleways 'considered of no use' in 1950 were indeed excluded from
the definitive map. What was considered useless in 1950 is not
necessarily useless today (and vice
versa). But the sentiments of the meeting are not likely to have been unique
Research is now up against a deadline. At the end of 2025, most unrecorded public footpaths and bridleways will be extinguished under Part II of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW). Were it not for the CROW cut-off, it might be that many unrecorded paths would have been quietly forgotten. But the cut-off, sought by the landowning and farming bodies as a quid pro quo for the right of access granted by Part I of CROW, gives new impetus to identifying these unrecorded routes. And there are only nine years left.
GeneralPosted by Hugh Craddock Tue, July 05, 2016 10:11:03
Debbie and I acquired a
horsebox about eight years ago. It opened up many new opportunities
to explore the Surrey countryside on horseback, riding our two
horses. One of the
hacks which quickly became a favourite circuit is based on the rough
parking area at Albury green (actually part of Albury Heath). Most
riders who come here, whether from local stables or, like us, in a
horsebox, then head west down Sandy Lane and up to the many sandy
paths on Blackheath, which is indeed rewarding.
But we soon 'discovered' a more diverse ride to the east. It takes us over Shere Heath, down the deeply incised Dark Lane, over two fords on Chantry
Lane and the delightfully narrow Rectory Lane, through the heart of
Shere village (teeming with visitors on bright weekends), east
towards Gomshall, then up Tower Hill Lane — another sunken lane
doubtless of great vintage — and down Jesses Lane before heading
west again along cross-field bridleways, descending down an
enclosed path to Hound House Road, up to Parklands, across the bridle crossing over the railway at Shere Heath, and back to Albury Heath.
We come this way perhaps once every month or two: the land is well
drained, and the paths a pleasure in every season.
Dark Lane Copyright Stefan Czapski and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Or at least, we did.
Yesterday's ride demonstrated the long term impact of successive
years of cuts to the county's rights of way budget. Whereas, when we
first came this way, paths might have got cut three times a year, now
there are funds sufficient for only one — and that's true of most
paths in the county. Tackling vegetation just once a year is always
going to be far from sufficient: if the contractors arrive late in
the summer, that leaves users to press through the entire growth of
the spring. While if a vernal cut is done, much will regrow during
the summer, and passage may well remain restricted even through the
following winter. Horse riders are particularly disadvantaged by
- horse and rider are taller than walkers, up to about 2.75m, but contractors may not be paid, bother, think, or notice, to clear above head height,
- whereas walkers might use a stick or secateurs to deal with overhanging vegetation, it's not so easy to do that on horseback, and could set off the horse where careful progress is most required,
- horses are as susceptible to, and averse to, nettle stings and bramble scratches as humans, but have no means to insulate themselves (such as thick trousers or an unfurled map!) — see this posting on Facebook for what can happen [Facebook login likely to be required],
- low branches or projecting brambles are hazardous: the horse has little sense of any obstruction above its own height, and the rider must watch out for him or herself — else the rider may be injured or knocked off.
Over the last ten or
fifteen years, the bridleways, lanes and indeed many roads we have
been riding have been getting narrower and more hemmed in. This is
because the use of contractors on diminishing budgets has established a cycle of decline.
period, firms bid for the cutting contract on price. Once the
contract is awarded, they have no incentive to perform on
specification, and will do the minimum that is necessary to permit
passage (at least, on foot). The contract will provide for a minimum
width, but will not take account of the character of the path, so
each year, the vegetation on the outer edges of the path becomes
better established and closes in. After a few years, saplings
growing in the margins become trees, and can only be removed with a
saw, which would add time and cost to the performance of the
contract, so they are left. Those trees project branches over the
path, or lean into the path to draw light, which narrows what is left for the user (and creates more work for contractors in future years:
but that will be some other contractor's job). The council has no
wish to demand compliance with even the limited contract
specification, because to do so would push up bid prices in future —
and the council cannot afford to pay more. So each party turns a
blind eye to the specification. Ways which were once broad lanes
become narrow paths, and even if cut to specification, allow for
little more than the profile of a horse rider in the days immediately
after the work has been done. Three months later, however, or after
heavy rain weighs down all the branches, it is very different.
And so it was
yesterday. We are familiar with Tower Hill Lane, an old sunken
bridleway heading south out of Gomshall, as a steady uphill trot for
the horses, but no more. Nettles infest the first thirty metres,
while endless low branches on the lower section make it unwise to
pick up any speed. The top part has always been a bit narrow, but
now, the combination of brambles, bracken and holly made it all but
impassable: had it been physically possible to turn round, we would
have done. I had brought a pair of secateurs with me, but it is hard
to do more than remove the most threatening strands which are
suspended provocatively across the path when you're mounted. The
outcome was a left arm covered in scratches, horses' flanks covered
in nettle stings, and an £80 new pair of breeches looking like
they're fit only for mucking out.
We can, and will,
report the overgrowth to the council. The rights of way team has
recently lost three officers and has a huge backlog of unfulfilled
reports. Even if there is someone to act on the report, there
probably won't be any budget to deal with spot problems, and these
paths will have to await their annual cut. We don't know when the
cut will take place: it could be this week, or it might not be until
the end of the summer — or it might have already taken place, and
that's it for this year. I'm not sure even the council officers
know, individually, which path is cut when: that may be a matter of
considerable discretion for the contractors (which will also save
money). So we have no idea when it might be sensible to return,
although a visit during the winter might be more realistic. Instead, perhaps we will head west in the future, along with all the other riders, and ride over the unenclosed tracks on Blackheath instead.
Some will say that a
few overgrown paths impassable to horse riders is no big deal at a
time of searing cuts to public services. Yet these are paths in one
of the most popular areas for rural recreation in England: about 40km from central London, easily accessible to millions, hugely popular
for walking, cycling and horse riding. If paths in the Surrey Hills
are becoming difficult to use, what can we expect in the more remote
parts of England (to find out, try reading Catriona Cook's day
8 blog of the Journey
for Access from Dartmoor to the New Forest)?
|After the ride
And if motorists think
that they're immune from such trials, don't be so sure. Just the
same cuts are being made to road maintenance budgets, and in the same way, many roads have their vegetation cut just once a year. Trees
have become well established in the verges and hedges, many roads
have become enveloped in walls (and often ceilings — try a double
deck bus route in the countryside) of greenery, and we have greatly
increased the costs of future maintenance by reducing expenditure in
the short term. Try taking a delivery van down some of those minor
roads which we road last weekend, such as Chantry Lane, and you'll
find it's not just horses and riders that end up with scratches. On some roads,
even motorists struggle to avoid the overhanging brambles and
branches, and this will continue to deteriorate.
A concluding thought:
last year, Chantry Lane, which apart from being a useful road for
walkers, riders and cyclists, also serves two cottages, was
resurfaced. There was nothing particularly bad about the state of
the road before, but the highways authority, like many others,
ring-fenced funding (Surrey receives nearly £1m in 2016–17, now virtually the
only grant paid for specific purposes) for resurfacing roads. So it
is that the council can afford to resurface a truly minor road to
some cottages — but it cannot find the funds to keep the high,
roadside banks from closing in over the smart new blacktop.
Common landPosted by Hugh Craddock Tue, May 10, 2016 16:38:13
The judgment of the Court of Appeal in Littlejohns and Littlejohns v Devon County Council and the Duchy of Cornwall,
handed down on 6 May 2016, tries to settle the vexed question
of whether rights of common can be acquired by prescription after
1970, over land which was already registered common land. It's best
to start with the background in my previous blog, where you may, if
you wish, also read about the judgment in the High Court.
The appellants, Mr and Mrs Littlejohns, were
fortunate, in both this court and below, to have Nicholas Le Poidevin
QC acting for them: Mr Le Poidevin is the former deputy Commons
Commissioner with considerable experience in this area. But in the
event, by a two-to-one majority, the Court of Appeal has upheld the
judgment of the High Court, and found against the appellants.
Accordingly, subject to any appeal to the Supreme Court (and the
brief report on the Landmark
Chambers website states that permission to appeal was refused by
the Court of Appeal: it could still be granted on an application to
the Supreme Court), the law is that no rights of common can have been
acquired by prescription over registered common land since 1970, and
any commoner who (as did the appellants) continued grazing after 1970
without having registered any rights of common, cannot point to any
legal authority for doing so.
The appellants' circumstances are not unique: this case was taken as far as the Court
of Appeal not least because there
are others who are seeking to resolve precisely the same point of law
applicable to their own circumstances. Some of them may have pending
applications with the defendant authority, or another pioneer commons
registration authority, to register other rights of common said to
have been acquired by prescription in the same way. There are surely
a good number of commoners who exercise 'rights of common' which are
founded in long-standing practice originating with previous
generations, but, for some reason or other, the rights were not
properly registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965 ('the
1965 Act'). And there will be others who do not seek to justify
their grazing in long-standing practice, but nevertheless have
increased their grazing activity beyond what was registered under the
1965 Act, and now hope to acquire permanent recognition for it
through prescription. Last week's judgment ensures that they will be
disappointed: indeed, in some cases, the judgment could threaten the
viability of upland holdings where the farmer has come to rely on the
use of those rights.
The Chancellor of the High Court, an ex officio
judge of the Court of Appeal, Rt Hon Sir Terence Etherton, gave the
dissenting judgment, and in my view, gets it right, so we will start
with the Chancellor. Much of the Chancellor's judgment includes a
summary of the background and statutory provisions (paras.1 to 34)
and the judgment of Lang J in the High Court (paras.35 to 48). In
his overview of the appeal (paras.51 to 72), the Chancellor gives
considerable attention to the recommendations of the Royal Commission
on Common Land, reporting in 1958, and how the 1965 Act followed, but
also departed from, its recommendations.
The Chancellor observes that the defendant authority's case relies on the abolition
of prescription by the 1965 Act. He says (para.76) that such a
significant change to property rights ought to be effected by
specific words, and focuses on s.1(2) of that Act, which is
the only provision to which such consequences could be attributed,
but he finds no such words present (para.77). Nor were there any
words of comfort in the Parliamentary proceedings on the Bill in
Hansard (para.78). Even the
Registration (New Land) Regulations 1969, which provide for the
registration of new rights of common under s.13 of the 1965 Act, fail
to explain why an application cannot be made to register rights over
existing common (para.79).
If s.1(2) does not abolish prescription, the Chancellor considers whether s.1(2) has
the effect that a right acquired by prescription is abolished at the very moment when
prescription matures into a right? This would be after 20 years
prescription, based on a 'lost modern grant' — the legal fiction
that the prescriptive practice can be attributed to a former grant
made by the person prescribed against (in this case, the owner of the
common) which has since been lost. But he finds that s.1(2)(b),
which extinguished unregistered rights of common, applies only to
rights already in existence in 1970 (para.81) — were it otherwise,
here too the effect would otherwise be to abolish prescription
without clear words to that effect (para.82).
The Chancellor derives (para.83) some comfort from
the date set by order at 31 July 1970, as the date on which
unregistered rights of common were extinguished under s.1(2)(b). If
the intention was that s.1(2)(b) should apply to all rights, whenever
created, rather than those capable of being registered by the closing
date for applications for registration under s.4 of 2 January 1970,
it should have had effect on any right created after it became too
late to register it, on 2 January 1970, and not on 31 July 1970
[though in my view, this may pay too much respect to those who
drafted the SIs].
The Chancellor notes the argument (para.84, also
expressed in my previous blog) that there is a circularity between
s.1(2) and s.13. If we think of s.13 in relation to new rights of
common acquired over previously unregistered land (an unlikely
scenario these days, but let us suspend scepticism), the new rights
become registrable under s.13 after 20 years use as of right (on the
basis of a presumed lost grant). [He does not say, but it might be
put like this: if s.1(2) has continuing effect, those rights,
supposedly maturing on the last day of the 20th year, are immediately
extinguished "unless they are registered". Is the commoner
to register them at the stroke of midnight on that last day of the
20th year, before s.1(2) does its worst an instant later?]
Accordingly, the Chancellor finds (para.86) that s.1(2)(b)
extinguishes only rights which existed and were capable of
registration on or before 2 January 1970, and inevitably, that
s.1(2)(a) (which deems unregistered land to be neither common land
nor town or village green) has similar effect (para.85). In other
words, the Chancellor thinks that s.1(2) has a 'big bang' effect,
wipes the slate clean of anything which could have been
registered prior to 2 January 1970 but was not registered
(commons and greens could however be registered by the registration
authority on its own protective initiative up until 31 July 1970),
but has no further continuing or prospective impact. He notes
(para.85) an oddity if s.1(2)(b) has continuing effect: s.1(2)(a)
cannot have the same continuing effect, else no land could ever
become common land, and s.13 would be largely redundant.
The Chancellor recognises (para.87) that the 1965
Act was, at least so far as common land and rights of common are
concerned, a staging post to comprehensive legislation, and it is not
necessary to ascribe to the 1965 Act an intention of establishing a
'conclusive and comprehensive register' which had to await further
legislation under the Commons Act 2006 ('the 2006 Act').
Interestingly, the Chancellor identifies a now oft-forgotten
objective of the Royal Commission: to provide for improvement and
agricultural intensification of common land where appropriate. That
is not to say that the Commission wanted to resurrect the inclosures,
but it did not view all commons with a dewy-eyed perspective of
preservation. The Chancellor quotes (para.57) the Commission's
report: "…we assume that, given the right circumstances,
commoners who have pasture rights will generally endeavour by the
better stocking of their common to attain the same level of economic
production that has been achieved by the rest of the agricultural
industry…". The Chancellor is convinced (para.88) that the
1965 Act was not intended to fly in the face of the Commission's
perspective, by removing the mechanism of granting new rights
(whether by prescription or express grant) over a registered common.
And he finds nothing in the 1965 Act nor the 2006 Act which
interferes with his conclusions.
The Chancellor also observes that s.13 did enable
amendment of the registers to take account of a variation in a
registered right of common, and considers that such a variation could embrace an enlargement of the right (para.89): there was "quite simply no discernible reason" why the 1965 Act should have
allowed this, but turned its face against the grant of new rights.
The Chancellor accepts the widely-held belief that the 1965 Act was poorly drafted, and concludes: "the 1965 Act should be interpreted so far as possible to give effect to a coherent policy, consistent with the objectives of the Royal Commission".
But the Chancellor is in a minority. Lewison and Tomlinson LJs do not agree, and as
a majority, they find for the defendant authority.
Lewison LJ opines that the 1965 Act was intended to establish definitive and conclusive
registers. He refers (paras.113 to 114) to the report of the Royal Commission in
pursuance of that objective [which undoubtedly is what the Commission
intended], and (para.115) to the explanatory notes to the 2006 Act,
which says, "The 1965 Act was intended to establish
definitive registers" [my italicisation: it is in any case quite
worrying if judges are going to pray in aid quotations from
Explanatory Notes to Acts, given the minimal effort put into writing
them nowadays]. But the judge admits (para.117) that, "the Act
did not precisely implement all the Commission’s recommendations",
and quotes Mr Le Poidevin describing it as 'half-baked' (para.124).
Lewison LJ finds (para.132) that s.1(2)(b) simply extinguishes any
unregistered right of common which would otherwise be exercisable
over registered common land. He thinks (para.137) that, were it
otherwise, the system of registration established by the 1965 Act
would be "all but pointless". He relies for support on
Lord Hoffmann in The
[I would say that the 1965 Act was not intended to be the last word in registration —
it took another 40 years to achieve that. As for the Trap
Grounds, the courts accepted that the provision in the 1965 Act for the registration
of greens was somehow different, and final: there was no need for further
legislation (were it otherwise, we would still be waiting for a legal
right of use of new greens registered under section 13): Lord
Hoffmann said (para.48, Trap Grounds): "It is by no means clear that Parliament
contemplated further legislation about rights over village greens." He did not
suggest for a moment that the same conclusion would be justified in
relation to common land, and rights of common.
Lewison LJ accepts that the 1965 Act did not compel amendments to the registers to
keep them up-to-date, so undermining the argument that the registers were
intended to be conclusive. So he takes comfort from concluding
(para.139) that, "at least the register will reflect the maximum
burden to which the registered common is subjected" [but not if
the Chancellor is correct that a variation under s.13 might increase
the burden]. He refers to the anomaly that a farmer who has an
express right granted in 1955, but fails to register the right, would
have lost it for want of registration in 1970, and by 1975 would have
nothing to show for his 20 years grazing. But a neighbouring farmer
who started grazing in 1955 as of right would have acquired a
(non-registrable) prescriptive right in 1975, and would be better off
than his neighbour who relied on the express grant. Apart from the
odd discrimination between these two farmers, it gives rise to a
legal anomaly: the neighbour's claim to a prescriptive right relies
on a lost grant made on or before 1955. If such a lost grant really
did exist, then it was indeed registrable in 1970, and must have been
extinguished for want of registration. The Chancellor, in his
judgment (para.96), got round this by asserting that a claim on the
basis of prescription could therefore not rely on any use prior to
1970 (it would have to be 1970 onwards to at least 1990); Lewison LJ,
not unreasonably, criticises that approach as putting a gloss on the
legislation which is not there.
[This is valid criticism: but the lost grant is indeed a legal fiction, and legal
fictions regularly lead to legal anomalies. In Bakewell Management Ltd v Brandwood, cited by Lewison LJ,
the House of Lords decided that a lost grant of
a right of way across common land could be inferred from 20 years'
use despite use of the right of way being illegal without the
landowner's consent. This leads to the very odd anomaly that for 20
years, the user is committing a criminal offence, but on the last day
of the twentieth year, not only does the user become lawful, but
apparently, the previous criminality is erased, for the law now
assumed that the user was done with the benefit of a 'lost grant'
made at the start of the 20 year term. Can the user get a pardon for
Lewison LJ is not impressed with arguments that his finding allows for interference
with property rights without clear words in the legislation. He says
that the 1965 Act clearly did interfere with property rights [i.e.
in general terms, those of commoners and landowners]; prescription
itself interferes with the landowner's property rights; landowners
may, if they wish to expressly grant rights in the face of the
court's finding, do so by granting a leasehold term which is not
registrable and therefore not affected by s.1(2)(b) [but would such a
right be exercisable competitively alongside other commoners with
'real' rights?]; there is no interference with the landowner's other
interests, such as to grant easements [this hardly seems relevant];
in promoting the Commons Bill in Parliament, the Minister accepted
that there was controversy over whether prescriptive rights could
still be created [indeed — but this is, as I commented in my
previous blog, agnostic evidence: Parliament was leaving it to the
courts to decide]; and the Royal Commission wanted no further claims
in respect of registered commons [leaving aside whether the
Commission's recommendations were given proper effect, one questions
whether the Commission had in mind claims which could not even be
made at the cut-off date for registration]. Lewison LJ concludes
that, "If Mr Le Poidevin is right then the [1965 Act] register
is virtually useless".
[Well, quite so. In my view, that is why further legislation was contemplated by the
Act itself, and passed in 2006. It's just that, in 1965, no-one
contemplated that it would take 40 years for new legislation to
polish off the work commissioned by the 1965 Act. Indeed, Ministers
said at the time that it would take Commons Commissioners five years
to sort out the disputes engendered by provisional registration under
the 1965 Act — but it was not until Mr Le Poidevin himself
determined the final case in 2010 that this work was done. If the
drafters of the legislation thought it would all be sorted out by
1975, and further legislation would follow, then it was of little
matter if interim legislation had only interim effects. The judge
asks: "why did Parliament prohibit registration of new rights of
common over common land registered under the 1965 Act, if it did not
intend that they should no longer be capable of acquisition?"
That would be a good question, if it were correct. But it isn't.
True it is that the 1965 Act did not confer powers to register such
rights. But it was only r.3(2) of the Commons Registration (New Land) Regulations 1969 which
prohibited registration. Attributing to Parliament an intention in secondary
legislation subject only to negative resolution goes too far.]
Tomlinson LJ agrees with Lewison LJ, briefly citing eight points which have proved
- ● the intention of the 1965 Act to establish a definitive register (albeit one not
conclusive of extent of common land);
- ● the natural meaning of s.1(2), that after 31 July 1970, unregistered rights of
common were not to be exercisable;
- ● the reference to 'any such land' in s.1(2)(b) over which such rights were no
longer to be exercisable was intended to mean registered common land;
- ● s.1(2)(a) referred to "no land capable of being registered under this Act" but
s.1(2)(b) referred only to "no rights of common shall be exercisable": it therefore did
not distinguish rights which were capable of being registered under the Act;
- ● s.13 was concerned with land which became common land after 31 July 1970;
- ● r.3(2) of the Commons Registration (New Land) Regulations 1969 properly gives
effect to the scheme of the parent Act;
- ● the 1965 Act did intend to effect the prospective abolition of prescription for
rights of common, in line with the intentions of the Royal Commission; and
- ● the alternative approach subscribed to by the Chancellor would involve an anomalous
treatment of rights acquired by lost modern grant.
In my view, the Chancellor, in his judgment, gets under the skin of the 1965 Act and
better understands the scheme of that Act — to the extent that it had a scheme.
Nevertheless, unless there is an improbable appeal, the matter has now been decided.
One can only wonder what will happen to the Littlejohns' grazing activity on Okehampton Common and the Forest of Dartmoor. The court has
decided that their grazing can have no lawful origin. Yet the landowner, the Duchy of
Cornwall, has taken no part in the proceedings. Will the landowner, or any commoner
(we cannot now rightly call the Littlejohns 'commoners'), take action to exclude the
Littlejohns from grazing on the commons — even though they, and their father, have
been grazing the commons for decades?
Okehampton Common: Copyright David Brown and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
The judgment can also be seen with brief comment from Landmark
Chambers: Stephen Whale of Landmark acted for the defendant authority.
Town and village greensPosted by Hugh Craddock Tue, March 22, 2016 11:15:11
There was a time, in
the first few years of the present century, when it seemed that town
and village greens were in favour. There was a steady flow of new
applications to register greens, the courts (including in several
high-profile cases before the House of Lords) had made rulings supportive of
such applications, and the Commons Act 2006 re-enacted, with modest concessions, legislation to
facilitate such applications.
The high tide mark was
the 2010 ruling of the Supreme Court (as it had then become) in R
(on the application of Lewis) v Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council
and another, which decided
that, where users of the land claimed as a green had politely
deferred to the landowner's members playing a round of golf, so as to
avoid disrupting the game, that was no more than the give-and-take
customary in the British way of doing things, and did not suggest
that the user was any less than 'as of right' — and that once the
claimed land (Coatham Common, the name 'common' in this case not
signifying that the land was already registered common land) had been
registered as a green, the rights of the local community to use the
green for lawful sports and pastimes would remain subject to the same
principles of give-and-take.
Since then, the tide has predictably ebbed under pressure to promote
development and growth, and political and judicial support for
registering new greens has declined, with the provisions in the
and Infrastructure Act 2013 greatly restricting the scope for
registering greens in the teeth of development plans, and several
decisions of the courts imposing constraints on what land may be
Yesterday, 21 March 2016, the Administrative Court of the High Court handed down
a useful judgment in R
(Somerford Parish Council) v Cheshire East Borough Council and
Richborough Estates Ltd (I
have altered the listing to conform to the usual practice for
judicial reviews: if any reader can tell me why the parties in this
and some other cases alight on what appears to be a non-standard
form, please do add a comment below) which, while hardly suggesting that
the tidal ebb has cycled back to a flood tide, does clarify some
interesting points on the relationship between greens and highway
rights, and the obligation on commons registration authorities (which
determine most applications to register greens) to deal with
applications fairly to all parties.
The case was about an application by Nicholas Bell to register the verges
of two minor roads in Somerford, west of Congleton, as greens:
Chelford Road and Black Firs Lane, under s.15
of the 2006 Act. It seems that the application (as so often) had
something to do with a proposal to develop much of the land between
the roads. It is not suggested that the verges themselves would be
incorporated in the development (although parts fell within the
development site, and were excluded from the application under s.15C
of the 2006 Act, inserted by s.16
of the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013), but their registration as
greens would have seriously constrained access to the development
site. You can see the two roads west and east of the arrow on
generously proportioned by the Ordnance Survey, and get an idea of
the character of the land from Google Street View here
and here. Those who
refer to Street View will see that both roads have a very broad verge
planted with trees, and those inclined (like me) to jump to
conclusions will assume that the roads were historically wide, and
perhaps inclosure awarded. Not so: a quick look at old-maps.co.uk
shows that the roads, while not ungenerously proportioned on the
Ordnance Survey 1909 County Series 1:2,500 map, had both acquired
substantial verges and apparently new outer hedges by the time of the
The challenge by way of judicial review was essentially one of procedural
flaws to the determination of the application by the commons registration authority,
Cheshire East Borough Council (a unitary authority), brought not by
the applicant for registration, Mr Bell, but by the parish council.
The registration authority had appointed James
Marwick, a barrister who specialises in village green cases, to
act as an inspector to consider and advise on the case. Frequently,
that role includes presiding over a 'non-statutory' public inquiry
('non-statutory' because there is no statutory requirement on the
authority to hold an inquiry) to hear and test evidence from all
parties. But in this case, Mr Marwick identified that there was a
key objection to the application: were the verges part of the
highways? And if he could conclude in the affirmative, he might not
need to proceed to an inquiry.
It seems to have been accepted by the court that, if the verges were
highway, then the application must fail, because the claimed
activities of lawful sports and pastimes carried out on the
application land were generally no more than people had a right to do
in exercising reasonable use of the highway, and could not amount to
use 'as of right' for the purposes of claiming a green. There have
been several cases in the courts over the years which have tried to
distinguish user of land which may establish public rights of way,
and user which may support a claim to register the land as a green,
but (to to the best of my knowledge) none has found that a green
cannot be claimed on existing highway land. (Although many registered greens do include highway land, not least because, whereas s.22(1) of the Commons Registration Act 1965 excluded highways from the definition of what could be registered as common land, it was not excluded from the definition of greens). The court's position is hardly surprising:
the House of Lords in Director
of Public Prosecutions v Jones and another
(a splendidly liberal decision led by the then Lord Chancellor, Derry
Irvine, when Lord Chancellors still participated in all three parts
of Government, viz the executive, legislative and judiciary) found
that a demonstration on the verge of a main road was not a trespass
exceeding the rights of the user, and greatly extended the prevailing historical interpretation of what amounted to reasonable user. It seems that the claimant had sought permission to challenge the decision in Jones all
the way up to the Supreme Court, but leave had been refused on this
ground (see para.6, though one wonders whether the Supreme Court
might have risen to the bait given the chance).
Mr Marwick received considerable evidence from the defendant authority
on the status of the verges, some of it after the deadlines he had
stipulated for submissions from parties. Mr Bell, the applicant, did
not specifically ask for an extension of time to comment, on the late
submission nor was one offered, while Mr Marwick, in his report to
the council, said the late submission was: "relatively
incontrovertible documentary evidence and having considered it in
detail, it does not significantly alter the Council's position or my
view of the issues in this matter." In the event, the court
disagreed, noting that much of the late-tendered evidence was new and
capable of being challenged, and Mr Bell ought to have been offered
an opportunity for that purpose. Given the critical question of
whether the verges were highway land, the authority's decision to
refuse the application without affording such an opportunity was
flawed, and was quashed.
As a procedural failing, the case might not be thought to offer much of interest. But it does.
First, one of the grounds of challenge was that the registration authority
"act[ed] as Judge in its own cause and thereby in breach of
natural justice". The authority was said to have an interest in
promoting the development on the adjacent land and releasing the
funds committed through a s.106
agreement. The claimant said that authority should have asked
another (presumably neighbouring) authority to determine the
application under s.101(1)(b)
of the Local Government Act 1972. The court found against the
claimant on this ground, with some inconclusive consideration of
previous caselaw (including the rather odd case of R
(Whitmey) v the Commons Commissioners),
but concluding (para.31) that, "appointing an independent legal
expert to conduct a non statutory enquiry and make findings is an
appropriate mechanism." And indeed, the court went on to find
(para.74) that there were sufficient disputes of factual issues
raised to require the inspector to hold a public inquiry.
Second, having decided that there was a procedural failing, the court was
bound to consider, under s.31 of the Senior Courts Act 1981 (as
amended by s.84(1)
of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015), whether: "it
appears to the Court to be highly likely that the outcome for the
applicant would not have been substantially different if the conduct
complained of had not occurred." This required the court to
appraise the potency of the claimant's arguments that, had Mr Bell
been afforded an opportunity to challenge the late evidence, it might
have undermined Mr Marwick's conclusion that the verges were highway
The court's analysis demonstrates that the origin of the wide verges was
somewhat uncertain, but at least partly attributable to an inter-war
initiative by a predecessor highway authority to widen the roads,
perhaps in anticipation of road improvements. The documentation was
incomplete and, at least in the claimant's view, inconclusive. It
was not entirely clear under what powers the land had been acquired,
whether all the land had been acquired (or the landowner had
voluntarily resiled from its use), whether, insofar as it had been
acquired, it had immediately become dedicated as highway land by
virtue of statute, and whether the authority had maintained all the
verges itself (or frontagers had maintained some of them).
A point was taken on documentation which showed, in any event, that the
roads, including the verges, were included in the authority's 'list
of streets', a list of publicly maintainable highways which every
highway authority is required to keep under s.36(6)
of the Highways Act 1980 (it was apparent that the 'list' was in fact a map). Mr Marwick had advised the authority that
the inclusion of the verges in the list had "not been
challenged. This is strong evidence in itself that the land is
highway land." Mr Bell had argued that inclusion in the list of
streets was not conclusive evidence of public highway status, and was
"no greater than the evidence upon which it is based." The
court accepted, "that the plan showing the list of streets is
strong evidence that the land is highway land, though not
determinative." There was a presumption of regularity about the
list. But as the list was not the only evidence, and serious
questions had been raised about its accuracy, the claimant was
"entitled to explore the question of what, if any, evidence
Mr Bell, and Somerford parish council, will now get a new opportunity to
pursue the application, presumably through a 'non-statutory' public
inquiry. If they succeed in contesting the evidence of highway
status, they will still need to show that there was sufficient use of
the land as of right for lawful sports and pastimes during 20 years
preceding the application to justify registration. But if the application is granted, any plans which the highway authority formerly or now, or
indeed the developer, had to use some of the land for road
improvement or access to the development site, will have to be
reviewed, with the possibility of further delay and costly provision
of exchange land in order to release it from designation. Somerford
parish council is not destined to be remembered in quite the same way
parish council, but for a relatively rural and sparsely populated parish outside the built-up area of Congleton itself, this was quite an achievement just the same.
Postcript: On reflection, even if the application land were found not to be highway land, the question arises — for what purpose was the land acquired by the council, and was use of the land by local people 'by right' or 'as of right'? In R (Barkas) v North Yorkshire County Council and another, Lord Neuberger said (para.24), "where the owner of the land is a local, or other public, authority which has lawfully allocated the land for public use (whether for a limited period or an indefinite period), it is impossible to see how, at least in the absence of unusual additional facts, it could be appropriate to infer that members of the public have been using the land 'as of right', simply because the authority has not objected to their using the land." It is by no means inevitable that success on the narrow highway status point will secure the outcome that Somerford Parish Council seeks.
Common landPosted by Hugh Craddock Tue, December 29, 2015 22:10:07
Some 20 or 30 years ago (the details are now a little hazy), the then Department of the Environment commissioned a huge study of the common land in England. The contract was let to the Rural Surveys Research Unit (RSRU) at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and was done by a team led by Prof. John Aitchison. Although the start date is uncertain, the final report was not presented until summer 2000 — by which time digitisation of large datasets had begun to catch up with the project, although it didn't start out like that. The report is generally referred to today as the 'biological survey of common land', although that appellation does not do justice to the breadth of the data gathered.
The outputs were colossal, and comprised:
- • a database of every registered common in England, with details of size, location, registered ownership, rights of common, natural context and other aspects;
- • a series of county reports focused on the nature conservation character of common land in that administrative area (those which were prepared by the RSRU in electronic format, about half, are available via the National Archives web archive of the Defra website);
- • a series of county volumes containing datasheets for each of the commons in the administrative area;
- • a national overview report of the project.
The database was exported into an Excel spreadsheet, and this is still available, now on gov.uk; however, the export truncated all long text fields in the database, so that the spreadsheet is valuable for the numeric data, but frustratingly incomplete for verbal analysis. This last defect has now been rectified, as the data, including the original Microsoft Access database, are now available for download on data.gov.uk. The publication of the data is part of the Government's drive to make more public data available online, and one expectation is that people will be able to make innovative use of the data. One early example of that is the common-land.com, which converted the Excel spreadsheet into html form for presentation on a dedicated website. Now that the dataset is available in its original unabridged form, perhaps others will find new uses for the data?
Incidentally, the RSRU performed a similar, independent survey of town and village greens, with the support of the Women's Institute whose members conducted local surveys of individual greens. One of the outputs of this survey is the database of town or village greens (in pdf on gov.uk and in Excel on the National Archives web archive), although this too suffers from truncation.