The reply from Lord Benyon
Thank you for your letter of 17 May about public rights of way reforms.
We have been working on a package of reforms to the processes for recording, diverting and extinguishing public rights of way, which includes the ability for landowners to apply formally to a local authority for a public path order to extinguish or divert a footpath or bridleway.
Under provisions known as the ‘Right to Apply’, landowners will be able to make formal applications to local authorities to extinguish or divert rights of way from their land, with a right of appeal to the Secretary of State if the authority refuses or fails to respond.
These applications will be considered on a case by case basis and the outcomes cannot be guaranteed.
Guidance will, however, encourage local authorities to remove public rights of way, wherever possible, from premises where privacy, safety and security are of a significant concern, including family gardens and working farmyards.
There have been some delays to implementing the rights of way reforms, but the project has now been resumed and I am keen to see its benefits realised as soon as possible. With over 80% of Defra’s agenda affected by EU exit, Defra has been leading a rigorous process to put all necessary secondary legislation in place to ensure a smooth transition from the EU and prioritising its legislative timetable accordingly.
The secondary legislation necessary to implement the rights of way reforms is subject to this prioritisation process and currently has an anticipated implementation date of late 2021.
While I wish for no further delay to the project, we must nevertheless be prepared for this timescale to change.
THE RT HON LORD BENYON
The Rt Hon Lord Benyon
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
The Question Remains
Why are the government actively encouraging a possible 49,000 applications from the Ramblers so called ‘lost paths’ campaign, when it is already demonstrated on the Ramblers map that high numbers of them will go through the small private gardens of ordinary home owners, farmyards and places with privacy and safety concerns?
Dear Lord Benyon,
With the will and a signature you have the power to change everything.
By ratifying the deregulation Bill you will change the lives of hundreds of ‘ordinary’ people caught up in the current ludicrous Public Rights of Way system which is outmoded, corrupt and not fit for purpose.
There are currently 49,000 targeted and mapped claims by the Ramblers ‘lost paths’ campaign. There is a loophole in the present system which allows the ludicrous making of a claims for highways to be reinstated, despite not being used since before 1949.( The whole of my lifetime ago!)
This is causing untold stress, friction, pain and anguish to those affected.
Hundreds of cases causing law abiding homeowners genuine suffering, hardship and anxiety and without wishing to sensationalise the facts, has even led to bankruptcy and suicide.
The present ‘system’ allows PROW to be claimed just because a track appears on an historic map of C1886. These ‘tracks’ could be old Drove roads, driftways, accommodation, occupation or private ways. The local vicar might have used them as a quick way between rectory, church and pub.
The ‘claims’ will eventually be dismissed but it can take anything up to 30 years for this to happen, which of course, is the true crime of such claims “Justice delayed is justice denied”
At the moment the ‘system’ starts from totally the wrong premise. For an unqualified individual to be able to claim historic rights through an ‘ordinary’ homeowners private garden, on such ludicrous grounds, is faintly ridiculous.
All of this can be changed and by you. Ratify the Deregulation bill and make it retrospective.
Claims come ‘out of the blue’ and pay no regard to solicitors searches and non existent tracks. They can and do affect anyone………..Prime Minister to pensioner!
The Ramblers 49,000 possible claims go through housing estates,schools,airports,MOD land and small gardens.No one and no where is excluded from being targeted. It’s the luck of the draw! One is mapped to go pretty near your own estate and I’m not sure if any already impinge on your house building plans.
This is why I think you may be able to appreciate that when you live on an ‘estate’ of a few hundred houses and do not have a few hundred acres to divert away from the middle of your lawn,it becomes much more than ‘an inconvenient nuisance’.
Lord Gardiner was well briefed on the situation but seemed unable to grasp the true extent of the problem.
Baroness Bakewell has many examples of the impending total breakdown of the rights of way system in her own constituency of Hardington Mandeville. She has shown more of a understanding of the situation, as is apparent in her contribution to the Agricultural Bill.
With every new face or change in government comes a renewed hope for a fresh approach or a truly listening ear. So many times, the hopes are relegated to the mountainous pile of wasted efforts and futile requests. Understandable reasons,of course, always bigger and more important things for those burdened with heavy global responsibilities.
This time I am again optimistic, that in you, there may come empathy and a greater understanding.
We have three requests.
1. Implementation of the Deregulation bill. To be made retrospective for any claims affected by the legislation.
2. Public statements of support for the very significant and growing numbers of people, in a now rapidly changing society, whose lives are being blighted by the present “system”.
3. An assurance that discussions will take place with the Ramblers concerning the 49.000 claimed “lost” footpaths, with view to ascertaining the genuine number of possible claims being published, removing those which are alleged to go through airports, schools and MOD land and highlighting the ludicrousness of making a claim for a highway to be reinstated, despite it not being used since before 1949. Any claims that go through gardens and dangerous farmyards to be reappraised and looked at in the light of the deregulation bill.
Please do not reply with the usual platitudes that are in the main just excuses for inaction or a hope that the problem, or person, will just ‘go away’. I am asking for your personal attention and how you see the way forward not ‘civil service rhetoric’.
The ‘problems’ are varied and wide ranging. One solution does not cover all. Government should not be controlled by the largest, most powerful forces. It should have equal regard and fairness for those in the minority as well as the majority. Ministers have a duty to hear all sides of a debate not just from the voices of those who shout the loudest.
I remain, ever hopeful.