Court threat causes Cornwall Council to climb down over unrecorded path 

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We are delighted that Cornwall Council has capitulated in the face of court action, led by the British Horse Society (BHS), against the council’s failure to register applications to add public paths to the official map as required by law. [1]

The claimed route at Altarnun. Photo: Google street view.

The BHS had applied in September 2023 for a path at Altarnun (11 kms west of Launceston) to be added to Cornwall’s definitive map of rights of way as a public bridleway.  The council failed to add the application to its public register of applications and, when challenged, it argued that it would not do so until the applicant had provided the council with certification of notice of the application served on the owners and occupiers of land affected by it.  The BHS, supported by the society and Ramblers, lodged proceedings in the high court on the grounds that the council must register an application regardless of whether owners and occupiers have been notified. 

With the threat of legal action, the council backed down and agreed to register the application within one month.  It has confirmed that it will work through the BHS’s 64 outstanding applications that it had also refused to register and will register relevant details within six months.  It will pay £13,000 to the BHS towards its legal costs. 

Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We are delighted at this result.  It is essential that surveying authorities comply with the law and register properly-made applications on receipt.  There are thousands of unrecorded routes which must be applied for before the deadline of 1 January 2031.  There is a risk that paths identified in applications may be extinguished in 2031, because the application has not been properly registered. 

‘We are ready to take legal action against other laggard authorities, and we urge them all to step up to the mark,’ Kate declares. 

[1]  The council is required, under section 53B of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, to maintain a register of applications for definitive map modification order

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