Group wants to raise awareness of claims being made on private property by Emma Gatten,Telegraph December 2020

Group wants to raise awareness of claims being made on private property by Emma Gatten,Telegraph December 2020

Anti-ramblers claim footpath on prime minister’s family home

A group of homeowners have claimed a public footpath on the prime minister’s family estate in a bid to raise awareness of claims being made on private property. 

A claim for a public footpath on the Nethercote estate on Exmoor, owned by Stanley Johnson, will be considered by Somerset County Council.

Ann Scott, a Norfolk homeowner who brought the claim, said she wanted to raise awareness over the issue after a claim was made on her own property. 

“I am making claims on the private land of high profile people who will be listened to, and I think, have the power to be more effective in demanding a change in the system,” she said. “Nobody is ever the least bit interested in intrusive public rights of way until it personally affects them!”

Claims have also been made on property belonging to two MPs, who the Telegraph is choosing not to name. 

Mr Johnson said he welcomed attempts to claim historic footpaths, but did not expect this particular claim to prove successful, adding that the path did not appear on a 1903 Ordnance Survey map of the estate. ADVERTISING

“I am absolutely in favor of people claiming footpaths, and will let the authorities have a look at the claims they’ve made,” he said. “I will obviously collaborate as much as I possibly can with any historical investigative work which is needed.” 

Walking charity The Ramblers has said more than 49,000 paths have missed off contemporary maps, and has created an online tool to search historical documents to encourage claims before the cut-off date. 

Mrs Scott and other campaigners are calling for the Government to bring into force the Deregulation Act 2015, which is expected to streamline the process of claiming paths and allow homeowners greater recourse. The Act is expected to come into force next year. 

“No one’s anti right-to-roam. These are people that live in rural places because they want access to outside themselves. But they take offense at media coverage that is only about the positives,” said Alison Hill, one member of the group who has made the claims. 

The Ramblers said it welcomed the introduction of the Deregulation Act, and said it was “dedicated to protecting rights of way, wherever possible in cooperation with landowners”. 

“The Deregulation Act was passed five years ago to make the processes around path applications and disputes easier for all involved – we would like to see the Government implement its provisions as soon as possible to improve the process for applicants, landowners and local authorities alike,” Gemma Cantelo, Head of policy and advocacy for the charity said.

A Defra spokesperson said: “As we have recognised in our 25 Year Environment Plan, public access is key to connecting people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing.

“The rights of way reform project – underpinned by the Deregulation Act 2015 – will protect access by enabling existing rights of way to be more efficiently recorded, and the cut-off date will finalise the record, providing certainty about where rights of way exist.”

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