Rights of WayPosted by Hugh Craddock Mon, April 15, 2019 07:10:28
This article was first published in Waymark, Winter 2018–19 (£, vol 31/3), the journal of the Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management, and is reproduced here by kind permission of the then editor. It was prepared by me for and on behalf of the Open Spaces Society. The version here incorporates amendments to the original article in the light of subsequent correspondence — I’m grateful to those who have highlighted any shortcomings. The article refers to the current law in England, but while the relevant provisions of the Deregulation Act 2015 do not extend to Wales, I believe the present position broadly to be the same in Wales.
|An application for a definitive map modification order to record this way, at Dane Hill, near Palmstead, Kent, was registered within one week, prior to the application being notified. Not all surveying authorities are willing to register prior to notification.
The promise (if that is the right word) of the reforms to rights of way contained in the Deregulation Act 2015 (the 2015 Act: ss.20–26) appears like a mirage — always shimmering on the horizon, but never quite within reach. So the news, announced in autumn 2018 by Defra, that implementation has been put back a further six months, and now cannot be sooner than late 2019 (but don’t bet on that target), means that we must live with existing systems for recording rights of way for at least another year, and perhaps a good deal longer. And as rights of way user bodies begin to shift into a higher gear on promoting and co-ordinating research into historical rights of way, and volunteers (and in the case of the BHS, professional contractors under its Project 2026) raise the rate of application for definitive map modification orders (DMMOs) under s.53(5) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (the 1981 Act), the operation of the existing legislation for handling such applications deserves continuing scrutiny. Not just because surveying authorities — at least in some parts of the country — are now receiving considerable numbers of applications for historical routes, but because proposed transitional arrangements under the 2015 Act will rely on the correct processing of applications by the authority to which they are made.
The 2015 Act, taken with Part II of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, will — if brought into force — extinguish historical (i.e. pre-1949 in origin) footpaths and bridleways if they are not recorded on the definitive map and statement by the ‘cut-off date’ of 31 December 2025. Under draft regulations considered by the stakeholder working group (which commended the 2015 Act reforms), a historical way will be excluded from extinguishment if it is identified in an application for a DMMO — but only if the application has been registered. Registered means the application must be included in a register held by the surveying authority under s.53B of the 1981 Act. Applicants ought to be (or at least, will in future be) keen to ensure that every application founded in historical evidence is duly registered, so that the application way endures past the cut-off date. There remains some uncertainty about what will happen to applications made close to the cut-off date which are not registered in time, but we can probably assume that specific provision will be made.
The procedure for an application for a DMMO is set out, for now, in Sch.14 to the 1981 Act. But practice varies between surveying authorities. Some register an application soon after receipt, while others do nothing until they have received (under para.2(3) of Sch.14) a certificate of service of notices on owners and occupiers of land. A few — perhaps unfamiliar with applications — appear to have no register at all. What does it take to get an application registered?
The starting point is that an application must be made in accordance with para.1 of Sch.14 — that means in the prescribed form (Sch.7 to the Wildlife and Countryside (Definitive Maps and Statements) Regulations 1993), with a map to at least a scale of 1:25,000, and copies of the evidence. There seems little doubt that authorities can waive some non-compliance with those para.1 requirements — Dyson LJ in R (on the application of Winchester College & Anor) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs expressly allowed for local authority discretion where the extinguishment of rights for motor vehicles is not in issue (see para.55 of the judgment): anyone who tells you that Winchester is authority for demanding strict compliance in the general context of a DMMO application doesn’t understand the judgment. But if the authority wants to insist on rectifying non-compliance, now is the time to do so — not after registration, and certainly not some years later when an officer finally grapples with the detail of the application.
Under the Public Rights of Way (Register of Applications under section 53(5) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) (England) Regulations 2005 (the 2005 Regulations), an authority must register an application within 28 days of receipt (r.3(6)(a)). The 2005 Regulations do not define ‘application’. So what is an ‘application’, the receipt of which triggers the 28 day countdown?
It seems that the authority must, prior to registration, look at what it has received simply in order to establish whether it is indeed a para.1 application. For example, if the authority received a letter stating (in so many words) that there was a historic right of way between A and B, and please would the council make a definitive map modification order — the authority would not wish to register that as an application. (An irony of the requirements imposed on an applicant by para.1 of Sch.14 is that such a non-compliant letter might nevertheless alert the authority to evidence of the existence of an unrecorded right of way, and trigger its duty under s.53(2)(b) and (3)(c)(i) of the 1981 Act anyway to make a DMMO. It is only because this general duty is widely ignored that applications are so important.)
That is not to say that the authority must, before registration, determine the application, or even carry out a preliminary assessment (as it will be required to do after the 2015 Act is brought into force). At this stage, it must be enough to exercise common sense — check for the correct form, properly completed, map to sufficient scale, list of evidence, evidence attached (not whether the evidence is sufficient), signed, dated. This is not the time for an investigation, but a cursory check. But if there is anything present (or not present) which, later on, would cause the authority to decide that it cannot even determine the application (as opposed to refusing it), then it should be identified and communicated right away.
if the application looks properly made in accordance with the requirements of the legislation, it can be registered — and if it isn’t, the authority should write back and point out the mistakes.
This might also be a good time for the authority to offer any advice to the applicant about the ownership or occupation of the land affected by the application, if the authority has particular knowledge. Whether an authority can communicate that knowledge to an applicant (who, after all, by virtue of para.2(1) is under a duty to serve notices on the owners and occupiers) without breaching data privacy is an interesting question to which I do not have the answer.
But it is at this stage that some authorities’ practice differs, with an insistence that the authority will take no action on an application until the applicant has proceeded to comply with the requirements of para.2 — the service of notices, and certification of compliance. It may be said by the authority that there is no ‘application’ at all, and that the requirements of the 2005 Regulations do not bite, until the applicant has got past para.2. That insistence may be wrong, for several reasons.
First, there is the plain language of the 1981 Act itself. Para.1 provides that 'An application shall be made in the prescribed form', and sets out what must accompany the form. Para.2(1) then requires that, 'the applicant shall serve a notice stating that the application has been made…'. This makes clear that ‘the application has [already] been made’. What is required of the applicant by para.2 is notice of something that has already happened — the application.
Thus, where the 2005 regulations refer to an 'application', they must bear the same meaning as in the parent Act — and that is that an 'application has been made' when the requirements of para.1 are satisfied.
Secondly, there is Defra's Register of definitive map modification order applications — Guidance for English surveying authorities to accompany Statutory Instrument 2005 No 2461 (i.e. to accompany the 2005 Regulations). Inevitably, Defra’s guidance is no longer maintained on gov.uk, meaning it has a zero profile, and leaving one uncertain whether Defra means that it still should be relied upon (in practice, the absence of a profile simply reflects Defra having lost control of its web presence). It is available archived [scroll down to Registers of modifications, applications and declarations.]. The guidance states at footnote 2, that:
'While, by virtue of paragraph 3(1) of Schedule 14 WCA 1981, the obligation to investigate the matters stated in the application does not arise until a surveying authority has received a certificate under paragraph 2(3) of Schedule 14 WCA 1981, by virtue of regulation 3(6) [of the 2005 Regulations] the obligation to include an entry in the register relates to the date the application is received by an authority. Thus, the obligation to include an entry in the register is independent of the receipt of certification that paragraph 2 of Schedule 14 WCA 1981 has been complied with. Of course, the fact that there is an entry on the register in relation to an application does not affect: (i) the date on which an authority must begin investigating the application, or (ii) the notice requirements set out in paragraph 2 of Schedule 14 WCA 1981.'
The third reason relies on an amendment made by the Deregulation Act 2015 (Sch 7, Pt 1, para.4), to insert new s.53B(4A) into the 1981 Act (this amendment, in common with the 2015 Act reforms generally, has not yet been brought into force). The amendment provides that (following implementation of the 2015 Act), the 2005 regulations can be amended so as to provide that an entry need not be made in the register until after the authority has served notice of the application on owners and occupiers (under the 2015 reforms, the authority takes on from the applicant responsibility for service of initial notices). Such an amendment would be redundant if an application was not complete until notices had been served. It suggests that the 1981 Act (and therefore the 2005 Regulations) contemplate an application being complete after compliance with para.1 — and before compliance with para.2.
The fourth is a matter of practicality. It is unhelpful to wait until the applicant has wasted his or her time, the notified owners' and occupiers' time, and the officer’s time, by serving notices and providing a certificate of service (still less by posting notices on site where required under para.2(2)), and then point out, after all of this has been done, that the application was non-compliant — and please could the applicant fix it and start all over again? The applicant surely is entitled to be informed, soon after application, whether the application is considered sufficiently whole to be entered on the register, and to be notified to the owners and occupiers. The applicant can then proceed to para.2 notification. Owners and occupiers need be troubled only when the applicant, and the authority, are confident that the application is duly made.
And for the fifth, we must turn to the 2005 Regulations. The provision, in r.3(6)(a), demands that: 'An entry in the register [relating to an application] shall be made by the later of: (a) the date falling 28 days from the date such application is received by a surveying authority' — not the date that the para.2(3) certificate is received by the authority. The regulations demand that the application (referred to as such) is registered within 28 days regardless of whether, and if so, when, it is certified. If the regulations intended to allow 28 days from the date of receipt of the certificate, vice the application, they ought to have said so.
It is not that para.2 notification is dispensable. An applicant may in certain circumstances be content that the application remains on the register potentially indefinitely, and see no need to comply with para.2. But para.3 is clear that the authority is under no obligation to determine an application, and the applicant cannot after one year ask the Secretary of State to direct determination, unless the para.2(3) certificate of service has been received. That is a powerful driver for compliance with para.2, at least for most applicants.
It must be said that some eager applicants — aided and abetted by misleading guidance published by some authorities and others — sabotage the legislative scheme in Sch.14 by making a ‘rolled-up’ application which purports to comply with both para.1 and para.2 — that is, the application is accompanied by the certificate of service, presumably which together were despatched by the applicant at the same time as the notices were served. This cannot be right: an application cannot be made, the notices served, the notices received and the certificate issued, all on the same day (at least, not without some incredibly nifty footwork involving personal delivery at all stages) — even assuming that the applicant does not need to be assured of successful service through recorded delivery or other tracking mechanisms (a point which deserves an article of its own). In R v Isle of Wight County Council ex parte O’Keefe and O’Keefe [(1989) 59 P & CR 283,  JPL 934], one of the grounds of challenge to an order was that the relevant notices had not been served (the judgment wrongly refers to the duty being on the authority to serve notices). Macpherson J said:
‘The point is taken that the date of the relevant notice addressed to Mr. O'Keefe (…11th May 1987) is the same as the date on the paragraph 2(3) certificate (…). Therefore there could not have been service on everybody before the certificate was signed on 11th May 1987.’
Applicants accordingly should be advised to take paras.1 and 2 step by step:
- • apply (para.1)
- • await validation of application as ‘duly made’
- • await registration (s.53B and the 2005 Regulations)
- • following registration, serve notices (para.2(1), and para.2(2) if relevant)
- • certify service of notices after the applicant is confident that the para.2(1) notices have been received (and if relevant, the para.2(2) notices have been erected on site) (para.2(3))
Each of these elements should be taken sequentially.
Some surveying authorities resist registering applications ahead of certification partly because, in consequence, a landowner may be astonished to discover a registered application (of which the landowner has not been notified), still more one which the authority has no duty to determine, yet is destined to remain on the register indefinitely — a blight on the property. Perhaps so — although the authority cannot be held liable for implementing the legislation in accordance with its duty.
But consider the position where a person acquires land following a clean pre-purchase search, only to discover subsequently that the surveying authority was in receipt of a duly made application to record a right of way across that land, and that the application did not appear on the register (and was not notified on the search) because, owing to the para.2(3) certificate being outstanding, the authority had failed to register it within 28 days in accordance with the 2005 Regulations. The authority may well be liable for nonfeasance, because the authority would be in breach of its duty to register, and the failure to register may have serious consequences for the purchaser. The primary duty must be for the authority to register applications — not to concern itself with the consequences of registration where the registration is done lawfully.
In any case, any open-ended sterilisation of land arising from a registered application which has not been certified will, on current expectations, be brought to an end by regulations implementing the 2015 Act. These may well require surveying authorities to carry out a preliminary assessment on all registered applications, whether they have been notified or not. If those arrangements are confirmed, expect to see more applicants resile from para.2 service in the run up to the implementation date. Otherwise, the service of notices by the applicant generally is a pre-requisite to determination. But it is not a pre-requisite to registration, and common sense suggests that authorities should confirm whether applications are duly made within a short time of receipt — and if they are, add them to the s.53B register within the 28 days allowed.
Rights of WayPosted by Hugh Craddock Wed, April 10, 2019 20:47:39
I am pleased that John Andrews has agreed to post here his review of a lifetime spent battling to save and maintain public rights of way in Suffolk. John lived in Suffolk for forty-odd years, and as a doughty member of the Ramblers' Association, did much to revive the network in Suffolk, and pursued applications to add paths to the definitive map long before such applications fully entered onto the radar screens of the user organisations (driven by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act reforms).
John is also the claimant, admirably supported by the Ramblers, in both the original and follow-up actions against the Secretary of State, which eventually showed (as was obvious then and now) that inclosure awards made under the Inclosure (Consolidation) Act 1801 could appoint new public rights of way less than 30 feet wide — for more about that, see my blogs 1, 2, 3 and 4!
By way of introduction, John writes:
'As the years have drifted by since I moved away from Suffolk nearly 12 years ago, I have had a steadily increasing feeling that some of the episodes through which I and my friends in Suffolk Ramblers lived, notably in the 1970s and 1980s, now seem so remarkable as to make me begin to suspect that they were nothing more than products of my imagination. However, they did all happen and I hope that, in recalling them in this way, I have made it just a little harder for the events of those times to remain unknown or become lost to memory.'
Do read John's review: it is hard to imagine now just how pioneering it was in the 1970s and 1980s, campaigning for rights of way in a rural, arable county such as Suffolk.
From a Wild Frontier to the Promised Land? — Discovering Suffolk paths
Rights of WayPosted by Hugh Craddock Sun, July 08, 2018 11:30:11
This article was first published in the Spring 2018 issue of Waymark, the journal of the Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management, and is reproduced here with kind permission of the editor.
of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990
confers broad powers on the local planning authority, by order, to stop up,
divert or improve a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway (which I shall
refer to indiscriminately as a ‘public path’) where it is necessary to enable
development to be carried out in accordance with planning permission.
A widespread view is that paths diverted by s.257 may not be
made subject to limitations. This
article poses the question — why not?
A limitation is not defined in statute law, but is generally
thought to be a constraint nominally imposed by the landowner on the otherwise
lawful public entitlement to use the highway. A stile or gate is the most obvious and commonplace limitation
encountered on public paths.
S.257 contains no express provision about imposing
limitations in an order made under that section. But if we compare it to the other widely used
power to divert public paths, in s.119 of the Highways Act 1980, s.119(4)
‘A right of way created by a public path diversion order may
be either unconditional or…subject to such limitations or conditions as may be
specified in the order.’
This variance in drafting is often held to mean that s.257,
lacking the express power to impose limitations found in s.119(4), cannot be
used to create a new public path subject to limitations (let’s leave aside here
the question of conditions, the meaning of which is elusive). But we should make some allowance for the
diverse origin of these provisions: s.257 originates in s.94 of the Town and
Country Planning Act 1968 (and before that, for highways generally, in s.49 of
the Town and Country Planning Act 1947), while s.119 originates in s.42 of the
National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Thus s.119 was conceived in the 1949 Act
which established the definitive map and statement — including s.27(4), which
provided for the statement to contain any ‘limitations or conditions affecting
the public right of way’. It was hardly
surprising that Parliamentary counsel, drafting both clauses in Part IV of the
Bill, saw a need for diversion orders expressly to amend the definitive
statement in relations to limitations, and put words in s.42 to do just that.
And while the provision for limitations in s.119 has,
because of its neighbouring familiarity, found its way into other powers
subsequently inserted in the 1980 Act to divert paths — ss.119B (schools) and
119D (SSSIs) but not, oddly,
s.119A (railways) — and is seen in the powers to
create paths (ss.25 and 26), which also originated in the 1949 Act, it is not
found in s.30 (dedication of highway by agreement with parish council). Why not? Because the 1980 Act is a consolidating act (it draws into one place
provisions found previously in many acts), and s.30 does not derive from the
1949 Act, but from s.8(1)(g) of the Local Government Act 1894. It was drafted in another era, and no-one saw
fit, in 1959 (when highways legislation was first consolidated) or in 1980
(when the legislation was consolidated again), to revise it to bring it into
line with other provisions in the host Act. Does this mean that s.30 agreements cannot include limitations? No more nor less than s.257 orders.
Section 30 of the 1980 Act, and s.257 of the 1990 Act, have
something in common. They both enable
works to be carried out on the new way (whether created under s.30, or diverted
under s.257). S.257(2)(b) provides that:
'(2) An order under [s.257] may…provide—
(b) for authorising or requiring works to be carried out in
relation to any [public path] for whose stopping up or diversion, creation or
improvement provision is made by the order'
Whereas s.30(2) provides that, where there is a s.30
‘(2) [the parish council] may carry out any works (including
works of maintenance or improvement) incidental to or consequential on the
making of the agreement or contribute towards the expense of carrying out such
works, and may agree or combine with the council of any other parish or
community to carry out such works or to make such a contribution.’
Subs.(2) above was added to the 1959 Act, to expand on what
was originally contained in s.8(1)(g) of the 1894 Act, and remains part of s.30
of the 1980 Act.
What sort of works are contemplated by these
provisions? Under s.257, the works can
be done on the diverted way, or on an alternative way which is to be improved
under subs.(2)(a) (it seems that the works can be done even on the way stopped
up, perhaps physically to prevent continuing use). Such works might include:
- • improving the surface;
- • widening the path (if improving an existing way under
- • street furniture (such as benches or litter bins);
- • a bridge;
- • safety apparatus (such as a chicane, or barrier adjacent to
- • a stile or gate;
- • a cattle grid and bypass;
- • a private road crossing with gates.
But some of these works would amount to a limitation on the
newly created public right of way — for example, a gate or chicane. Can an order under s.257, or an agreement
under s.30, provide for them, notwithstanding the absence of express words
about imposing limitations?
Section 257 is a pretty flexible provision: it facilitates
development on land crossed by public rights of way (and s.247 does something
similar for land crossed by highways generally). It enables stopping up, or diversion, or
combined stopping up and creation, or stopping up together with improvement of
an existing highway. It enables a
replacement way to be of a different status to the one stopped up (although if
the replacement way is a carriageway open to mechanically propelled vehicles,
it seems there can be no provision for works under subs.(2)(a)). Beyond the initial ‘necessity’ mandate, it
imposes no statutory tests on the confirmation of an order other a simple
merits assessment. Why should we infer
that, despite this flexibility, and despite a power to provide for works, those
works cannot limit the right of way in any respect?
There is no obvious reason why s.257 should address
limitations: it is enacted in an Act about planning, not highways. Limitations are not mentioned in the 1990 Act
(nor in the 1968 Act) in this context. It would be very odd to read 'works' as being
confined to things which do not amount to limitations, particularly because
such an interpretation would greatly limit the scope of the developer to remedy
the constraint imposed by the existence of a highway across the development
site. If the site is being developed for
housing, that may not always be a problem — but what if it's being developed
with an agricultural barn, and stiles or gates are essential to the alternative
route — can it really be intended that s.257 is useless for such purposes, and
recourse must be had to s.119? What if
the diverted way begins in a field, and then crosses a housing estate: must the
necessary gate out of the field be authorised under s.147?
Section 30 had different antecedents. But it is now nearly 125 years old. It would be an empty power if a parish
council could not agree with a landowner to create a new highway unless it was
free from limitations. It would be
impossible to create a public path across fields (no stiles or gates allowed).
Apart from s.30 (and s.119A), s.116 of the 1980 Act also
lacks a power to impose limitations. S.116 enables a highway to be diverted in the magistrates’ court. Its origins are found in s.16 of the Highways
Act 1773, and quite possibly earlier than that. But neither s.116, nor the provisions from which it is derived, have
anything to say about limitations or even works. Yet many readers will have
encountered court orders diverting public paths which inevitably provided for
the negotiation of field boundaries by gates or stiles. Some are still made with such limitations
today. Is the presence of these
limitations unlawful even now — after all, limitations cannot be legitimised by
the passage of time?
Or can we conclude that the express power to impose
limitations in the s.119 suite of provisions is an ‘avoidance of doubt’
provision — there to make clear that the power exists (and should be employed
where appropriate), but not to be taken so that its absence from other provisions
implies that the power is then wanting? After all, the creation of a new public path is a bargain between the
local authority acquiring new rights across land on behalf of the public, and
the landowner conceding those rights. Why should it be an ‘all or nothing’ arrangement by which the landowner
is compelled to retain nothing of benefit (such as the right to maintain a
Even if the answer is ‘no’ (and that would have a pretty
radical impact on the efficacy of s.116 orders), we can still rely, for the
purposes of s.257 and s.30, on the power to construct works. Works specified in a s.257 order or s.30
agreement may well not be limitations, and need not be recorded in the
definitive statement — but they may be, in which case, they should be. It surely is a bizarre interpretation of
s.257 which requires the works contemplated by s.257(2)(b) carefully to be
sifted out to decide which do not amount to limitations and so are capable of
authorisation, without any clear words to impose such a requirement. If the draughtsperson intended such an
outcome, why was the expression ‘works’ not expressly constrained in any way?
But what about the prescribed form of s.257 order? R.2(1)
of the Town and Country Planning
(Public Path Orders) Regulations 1993 provides that, ‘A public path order shall
be in the relevant form set out in Schedule 1…or in a form substantially to the
like effect, with such modifications as may be required…’. Form 1 in Sch.1 allows for the order to
recite (in article 2) how the new way will be improved, or (in article 4) how
works will be carried out to it, and these improvements or works should be
described in the schedule to the form of order. Once one accepts that the order may specify works which amount to a
limitation on the public right of way, and those works are recited in the
schedule to the order, it remains only to record those works as limitations in
the definitive statement via the consequential legal event modification order
made under s.53(3)(a)
of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, or in a
combined order. For example, the order
‘4. The following works shall be carried out in relation to
the highway described in Part 2 of the Schedule: installation of gate to
British Standard 5709:2006 at point X on the order plan.’
and Part 2 of the Schedule might read:
‘Description of site of alternative highway
…passing through a gate at point X, grid reference
Such drafting is consistent with r.2(1), and the gate is a
work contemplated by s.257(2)(b). Why
should the gate now not be recorded as a lawful limitation in the legal event
The express reference to limitations in s.119 of the 1980
Act is helpful, and ensures that provision for limitations is considered in the
context of any public path diversion order. But it should not be taken to establish the benchmark for all other
provisions enabling the creation of new public paths, which originate in other
enactments, from other eras, with other purposes. There need be no limitation on the use of
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, drovers and sumpters.
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.