The Surveying Authority is under a legal duty to keep its Definitive Map under “continuous review”. [This replaced the duty in the 1949 Act to review the map every 5 years.]
2. Schedule 14 of the WIldlife and Countryside Act lays down certain legal requirements of the Surveying Authority .
3. From the WCA Schedule 14 requirements it is unequivocal that an Application must be decided by the Surveying Authority “within 12 months”…. and not “as soon as is practicable.” Or even “reasonably practicable.”
4. Schedule 14 also legally stipulates that where a Surveying Authority has not made a Decision within 12 months, then the Applicant can “make representations” to the Secretary of State requesting that the Surveying Authority be “Directed” to make the Decision [on the Application.]
5. The above “approach” has been exercised on several occasions by a certain Applicant and it is my understanding that the Surveying Authority has been “Directed” to publish a Decision on some Applications which have been gathering dust.
6. So far as some other issues:- the O’Keefe judgment [legal authority] handed down certain “guidelines” which Surveying Authorities should follow.. to wit – (i) that the Members of the Decision making Committee should make a site visit; (ii) that Members of the Decision making Committee must make their own Decision on the evidence before them; [which certainly suggests not accepting “a Recommendation..” (iii) Counsel’s Opinion should be sought when the case is contentious; (iv) that officers should not mislead or misguide the Members of the Decision making Committee.
Failure to follow any one of the above legally decided “guidelines” could, should the Application go to Public Inquiry, result in an Application for Costs against the Surveying Authority. Failure to get out of the coach on a “site visit” resulted in Costs against a certain Council
7. Most importantly, the way to “streamline” the investigation of Application is to rely on “the law”… which requires only “previously unavailable and unseen ” evidence to be grounds for an Application for a Definitive Map Modification Order.
8. The fact is that many [if not all] Applications to Add a Restricted Byway, or upgrade a Footpath to a Bridleway, “re-cycle” [former] evidence which was considered during the preparation of the Definitive Map and that in itself fails conspicuously to comply with the legal requirement as stated above viz .. Only previously unavailable and unseen evidence can be grounds for an Application.
9. The law presumes that “..all things were done correctly…” by the Parish, District and County Councils when preparing the Definitive Map.. and therefore the onus of proof [ displacing that presumption ] is squarely on the Applicant.. It is not for the Surveying Authority to prove that the Definitive Map is correct.