Bedford Council forced to back down on path changes

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Our Bedford local correspondent, Brian Cowling, has forced Bedford Borough Council to withdraw its proposals to move the routes of 13 public footpaths, in the parishes of Ravensden, Thurleigh and Wilstead, because of errors in the formal orders.  Brian objected to the proposals because he considered that they would be damaging for public enjoyment, and because the proposals were fundamentally flawed.

On 4 August Bedford Borough Council withdrew the orders, some of which had been sitting on the table for four years.

For the 12 proposals at Ravensden and Thurleigh, the council had used a map to the scale of 1:5,000 instead of the required 1:2,500, so the orders would have been rejected by the Planning Inspectorate in any case.  In the case of the order to divert Wilstead footpath 8, which was made in 2013, Brian had pointed out that the purpose for making the order was flawed and that it was wrong to spend public money on it.  The council was using the diversion order to avoid taking enforcement action against buildings which had been constructed across the path, thereby blocking it.


Wilstead footpath 8, obstructed and threatened with diversion

The council intends to remake the orders and Brian has already warned them that he will object to them as he considers that the public will be severely disadvantaged by the proposals.

Says Brian: ‘Bedford Borough Council has wasted thousands of pounds of public money, by promoting path changes which are not in the public interest and by making sloppy errors.  At Wilstead, the council should either take enforcement action against the obstructions or require the landowner to apply for, and pay for, a diversion.  It should not be assisting the landowner to get round the path law.

‘It was extremely careless of the council to use the wrong scale of maps for the Ravensden and Thurleigh orders; the regulations for drafting orders must be followed in order to ensure that the public can understand the proposals.  Again, much public money has been wasted on this.’


Ravensden footpath 8, a direct crossfield path threatened with closure

Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We are very fortunate to have Brian acting for us in Bedford Borough.  He is extremely diligent and is prepared to stand up for the interests of walkers, riders and cyclists.  The Open Spaces Society will always endeavour to protect public paths for the public good—as it has done throughout its 152-year history.’

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