My Letters to Baroness Bakewell concerning the cut-off date to claim historic rights of way – House of Lords 2nd April 2019.

My Letters to Baroness Bakewell concerning the cut-off date to claim historic rights of way – House of Lords 2nd April 2019.

Dear Baroness Bakewell,
I attended the Lords debate 2nd April 2019. (Appeal for extension of the cut off date for ancient historic rights of Way)
I was wholly disappointed that those in a position, such as myself, were totally unrepresented at that gathering. It seems that ‘sympathy’ to volunteer ‘claimers’ of purportedly ‘lost’ rights of way is unanimously extended, whilst scant recognition is even acknowledged for those who are innocently blighted, out of the blue, with historic and ancient claims, having no foundation in any ‘modern’ usage or need whatsoever.

As you made mention in your speech on Tuesday, that you personally have a little used footpath “used for the children to ‘play hide and seek’ and the occasional rambler” perhaps you should be able to put yourself in the shoes of those who do not even have a ‘public footpath’ and yet have claims (based on nothing more than ill researched supposition that one might have existed hundreds of years ago) that they do.
I find it distasteful that you use the following example “This is an activity which attracts a high proportion of women, girls, children, disabled people and older people” as if to suggest that those with opposing views about ‘unused, presently non existing ways’ are in any sense adverse to proper provision for those members of society. However, I do not expect to be subsidised for my own hobbies and pursuits so therefore cannot accept that the general tax payer should be subsidising the equestrian pursuits of others, well able to afford to pay for their own ‘privileges’. Furthermore, if horses are being killed and maimed on busy roads then the horse riders themselves might bear at least some responsibility for placing their own animals on an inappropriate route. The BHS should be exploring  ways of securing safe riding and being prepared to pay an appropriate fee if they wish to ask for passage over someone else’s property or land. No fundamental difference to car parking charges. If you use private land then you pay for the privilege .

Whilst you may accept that your footpath is a wonderful and non problematic ‘gift’ to society, I suspect that your idyllic perception may undergo a considerable change if you were suddenly faced with a claim that it is in fact a BOAT and you can look forward to 4×4’s, motorbikes, horseriders, cyclists and walkers on barely 3metres wide through your garden and within 2 metres of your door.

I have such a claim! Yet, unlike you…….

1.There is no path on the definitive map.

2.I bought my cottage 20years ago with FULL solicitors search ( stating no rights of way on or abutting the property).

3. A statutory declaration has been made by the previous owner that no road ever existed during Private Estate ownership.

4. The claim falls foul of the NERC act  ( ie not on the list of streets in 2006 and not on the definitive map).

Now, you tell me why I should have had this blighting my life and my property for over five years. Tell me why I should be the one waiting indefinitely for Norfolk County Council to send an order ( now made) to PINS. Tell me why I should be the one spending my hard earned retirement time and money on something that ‘others’ wish to claim from me. Tell me why I am subjected to quasi judicial enquiry with evidence given not on oath and claims accepted at face value, even canvassed for! Explain to me why I am even in this position. 
Read your briefing notes ( you will find me in the Telegraph article on cost to councils). Explain to me how Kate Ashbrook can accuse me of ‘scaremongering’. Then imagine that your ‘idyllic’ footpath is suddenly claimed to be a BOAT and let me know how you would feel…….or perhaps you may find out one day, particularly if the ancient historic cut off date is extended.

Having received a reply from Baroness Bakewell I responded as below.

Dear Baroness Bakewell,

Thank you for replying to my email and trying to understand the way in which these Public Rights of Way Claims are adversely affecting the innocent victims of them.

I agree that the Law on Rights of Way is far from perfect. In fact it is so far from perfect that it needs to be completely re written. A “Court of competent jurisdiction” (see Pratt & Mackenzie’s Highway Law) should be dealing with highway matters. Certainly not a Planning Inspectorate Inquiry often chaired by ex-Rights of Way officers. 

I disagree that the Trail Riders federation is causing my ‘extreme distress’. They have nothing to do with Norfolk County Councils claim of BOAT through my garden. You state that their claims are to turn Footpaths into BOATS. As I previously tried to explain my land is not burdened with a Footpath or in fact any Public Right of Way whatsoever.

I appreciate that you did not describe your footpath as ‘idyllic’ but the tone of your speech seemed set to impart to those listening a rather one sided ‘rosy’ picture of public footpaths in general. The dangers of walking through farm yards, Industrial places, areas of work and private gardens were only mentioned briefly by Lord Caithness.

On the subject of ‘briefs’ to MPs and Peers I would ask you to empathise with those (such as myself) who because they live in vastly different areas of the country, have been until very recently, on a lonely and isolated battle. All are only concerned with their own case. They start from knowing absolutely nothing about Public Rights of Way and have to put their trust, at great expense, in solicitors but are not necessarily experts in the laws of PROW. 

We are put in the position of being ‘protestors’ because we are perceived to be denying the rights of another. We have neither the time, the money nor 
indeed the understanding to be able to research ‘debates’ and brief ministers. There is no cohesive body to represent us, whilst representation in the interests of Public Rights are awash with well-funded and powerful groups such as Ramblers and Bridleway organisations. 

To describe these groups there were words such as ‘brilliant’ ‘amazing work’ and sympathy was even extended for the band of ‘loyal, hardworking’ volunteers having to ‘cope’ with making endless access claims. (Many with scant evidence and unscrutinised by local councils as to the quality of their application). And, all set to make a misery of someone’s life and devalue their homes or farms for any number of years. I think my last sentence is of most importance. 

It is the indefinite number of years one claim is allowed to take which is most abhorrent and indeed the seemingly endless opportunity for objections to just about anything .I would bring to your attention to the prime example of the Peppard case which took 50years to resolve. It was found not to have even been a footpath in the first place.

The Peppard siblings died well before this judgement was made. I am sure that even you will find it quite unbelievable that no compensation was ever paid and that the BHS has currently claimed a bridleway on the same land. Again, it is not the fact that they have claimed it but the fact that the law allows them to do so.

I now come to something which is intended only to increase your understanding and empathy for those who find themselves in this situation. I even hold out the hope that you will find yourself able to support much of our cause.

You will be aware of a case where there is the possibility of an ancient footpath being discovered to go through the middle of private houses. The people living in those houses could suddenly find that a claim was registered for a footpath modification order (based on historical documents). Hopefully they may have house insurance to cover the expense of enquiries and possible judicial reviews and court cases. (NFU are the only ones I know of at the moment) or between £50,000 and £150,000 just lying around to fight the ensuing battle. 

Those, as yet unsuspecting house owners, even if they ‘win’ in the end could still spend years (at the whim of councils) fighting an order if it were made. Of course, all the while they are fighting no one will want to purchase their houses and the houses will be severely devalued to boot. 

This is exactly the position I am in myself so yes I do feel aggrieved and I think quite rightly so. I took my case to Elizabeth Truss who ignored it. I asked that ‘members’ at NCC be allowed to hear me (I thought it was my right to be heard in a democratic society) I was ignored. I have asked local and District councillors to help, again ignored. NCC have made the order, all they have to do is put a stamp on it and send it to the Secretary of State but no, they are still holding on to it after more than a year. It is currently ‘with their legal dept’ (Its been there several times now!)

UPDATE. NCC sent the order to PINS on April 18th 2019

I have been labelled as a ‘protester’ of course, and yet, I ascertain that anyone in my position would do exactly the same to defend their own human rights to privacy in their own home, as would your neighbours do if someone claimed a public right of way through their houses.

Thankfully I found two amazing experts and with their help I am now myself certainly not a ‘novice’. I have recently set up a website to help others. This is the website link to ‘Our day at the Lords’.  on a lighter note I hope you find it amusing.

I do hope that I have thrown at least a little light on our problems and very much hope that you will be able to support the small percentage of us who find ourselves ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’.

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