How to win local green space through Neighbourhood Plans

The Open Spaces Society has been defending open spaces in England and Wales since 1865.

This fact sheet is brought to you by the Open Spaces Society - We campaign for stronger protection for common land, village greens, open spaces, and public paths in England and Wales, and for greater opportunities for everyone to enjoy them. As a small charity, memberships are vital to our ability to continue to support more than 600 cases annually helping individuals, groups and communities to save their local green spaces and paths. Individual membership costs £3/month. Join us today.

What is neighbourhood planning?

Neighbourhood planning gives communities in England the opportunity and power to set local planning policies. You can shape the place where you live, protect valued open spaces using the local green space designation and decide what type of development, if any, is needed. Once a neighbourhood plan has been backed in a referendum (see section 12) it will have real weight in the planning system. Communities are thus empowered to influence decisions in their local area.

To date, March 2015, over one thousand communities are involved in neighbourhood planning, and 34 plans have been made following referendums.

Neighbourhood planning is a system intended to give local communities more say in the development of their areas. Neighbourhood planning is voluntary, so that a neighbourhood plan will only be made for a given area if a parish or town council or local group takes the initiative to prepare one.

Neighbourhood area

A neighbourhood plan covers a neighbourhood area. This is an area designated as such by the local planning authority (LPA). A designation must be initiated either by a ‘relevant body’, ie a local council or a neighbourhood forum. To qualify as a relevant body, a neighbourhood forum must:

a) be established to promote or improve the social, economic or environmental well-being of the area;
b) be open to membership to people who live or work in the area or are elected councillors of a principal local authority which includes the area within its boundaries;
c) have a written constitution;
d) have a minimum of 21 members.

Parished areas

In parished areas (ie where there is a civil parish), the neighbourhood area is likely to be one or more parishes, but an area which is not a civil parish can be designated. It may be difficult to choose an area which does not have a recognised administrative boundary; a housing estate with clear physical boundaries could qualify.

Preparing a neighbourhood plan

The first step is for the relevant body to apply to the LPA to designate the neighbourhood area to be covered by the neighbourhood plan. The application must include:

a) a map which identifies the area,
b) a statement explaining why the area is suitable for designation,
c) a statement that the body making the application is a relevant body.

Making the application

Where a neighbourhood forum makes the application, it must include:

a) the name of the proposed forum,
b) a copy of the proposed forum’s written constitution,
c) the name of the neighbourhood area and a map identifying the area,
d) contact details of at least one member of the forum,
e) a statement explaining how the proposed neighbourhood forum meets the conditions in paragraph 2 above.

Role of the local planning authority

The LPA must:

a) publicise the application on its website and in such other ways it considers appropriate,
b) give details of how to make representations, and
c) allow a period of at least six weeks for representations to be made.

Thereafter, the LPA makes a formal designation. The LPA is not obliged to make a requested designation, but can only refuse to do so if the necessary criteria have not been met (eg a forum application is defective because the forum does not comply with the statutory requirements).

Once the neighbourhood area is formally designated, the LPA must publish on its website and in such other ways it considers appropriate:

a) the name of the area,
b) a map showing the area, and
c) the name of the relevant body which applied for the designation.

Contents of the plan

The relevant body decides the contents of a plan. The plan does not have to cover the same ground as a statutory local plan or development plan made by the LPA.

Subjects which are likely to be covered include: housing, employment, shopping, transport, leisure and well-being, environment, sustainability and design.

Environment

The relevant body should consider identifying specific sites of local importance, including character and location, and highlight areas to be protected from development. Examples from neighbourhood plans include:

a) Broughton Astley, Ascot, Sunningdale, Sunninghill (Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead): aim to encourage formation of ‘green corriders’, resist development that would reduce the gap between residential developments and villages, provide walkways, and cycle routes to link up open spaces.

b) Much Wenlock (Shropshire): aim to retain features of high conservation landscape.

c) St James Exeter (Devon): prohibit developments resulting in loss of biodiversity unless compensated to bring net enhancement overall

You should identify areas of open space that are of value to your community and, as part of the neighbourhood planning process you can protect these areas by having them designated as local green space (LGS). Once designated, by the planning authority, the LGS is subject to the same strong development restrictions as green belt and new development on that land is ruled out other than in special circumstances.

Use our guidance, Local Green space designation to assist you in addressing the criteria to have land designated as LGS. You are required to provide substantive and compelling evidence to justify designation.

Examples:
Chapel-en-le-Frith, (Derbyshire) neighbourhood plan illustrates the types of land which have been designated.

Freshford and Limpley Stoke (Wiltshire) neighbourhood plan includes local greenspace

The plan can be a complex document and in preparing it you may need professional help from planning consultants. You will have to pay for such help. (In one case, the cost to two local councils of preparing a joint plan was £60,000.) If the local council prepares the plan, it will meet most of, if not all, the cost. Where a forum produces a plan, it may get help from the district, borough or unitary council. Grants may be available from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which has been offering up to £7,000 per neighbourhood area since April 2013. It is a good idea to look at completed plans as a guide to what might be included—see the DCLG and OSS website (paragraph 13 below).

Procedure for preparing a neighbourhood plan

The procedure for preparing a neighbourhood plan is not prescribed, but the stages are likely to be:

a) establishment of working group to produce ideas and suggestions. In one case an overview group was established, with subject groups covering environment, traffic and transport, social infrastructure, housing, economy and retail. The groups should represent local interested parties and individuals (eg local council, sports clubs, civic/amenity societies, environmental groups, local businesses/chambers of trade, individuals who volunteer);

b) appointment of planning consultants (optional but probably necessary);

c) application for grant and other funding;

d) publicity, including leaflets delivered to homes and premises, information on social media, public meetings and exhibitions asking for the views of local people generally;

e) collation of feedback from publicity and working groups;

f) production of draft plan.

Publicity

Once a draft plan has been produced, the relevant body must publicise it and allow a period of not less than six weeks for representations to be made. You must send a copy of the plan to the LPA. It may also be necessary to consult certain prescribed bodies if their interests are affected (eg the Highways Agency where the plan would affect highways; English Heritage regarding historic buildings).

Submit plan

After the period allowed for representations has expired, the relevant body submits the draft plan to the LPA with:

a) a map or statement identifying the area covered by the plan,

b) a consultation statement which gives details of who was consulted, and how, summarises the main issues and concerns raised by consultees and describes how those matters were addressed.
The proposed neighbourhood plan must include, a statement explaining how the plan complies with paragraph 8 of Schedule 4B to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. This provision (inserted into the 1990 Act by the Localism Act) in broad terms requires a neighbourhood plan to comply with national planning policies and strategic policies in local development plans; to have proper regard to sustainable development, to conservation areas and listed buildings; to comply with EU obligations.

Independent examination and referendum

Once you have submitted the plan to the LPA for approval the LPA will arrange for the examination of the plan by an independent examiner. He or she will ensure that the formal requirements for the preparation of the plan have been met and that the plan conforms to the national planning policy framework, to the local strategic plan and to the other provisions of paragraph 8 of Schedule 4B to the 1990 act. The examiner may hold a public inquiry.

Having completed the examination, the examiner reports to the LPA with recommendations. These may be that the plan be adopted (the most likely outcome), that the plan be rejected (unlikely) or that modifications be made (also unlikely).

Once the plan is finalised, the LPA must organise a referendum in which all local government electors for the plan area are entitled to vote. Detailed regulations (see paragraph 13) about the conduct of a referendum are set out in regulations. If 50 per cent or more of those who vote are in favour, the LPA must adopt the plan. The plan then becomes part of the LPA’s local development plan and must be taken into account when the LPA makes planning policy decisions.

Links

Further resources about How to win local green space through Neighbourhood Plans

  • Neighbourhood Planning and Protecting Open Spaces

    Neighbourhood planning gives communities in England the opportunity and power to set local planning policies.

  • Community Assets & Protecting Open Spaces

    We tell you how to make use of the community asset process to protect your local open space.

  • Frequently Asked Questions: Open Spaces

    Common questions about open spaces

  • Local Green Space Designation

    The Local Green Space designation (LGS)  protects local green areas of particular importance to local communities.

  • Local Access Forums: role of the local authority

    As a local authority or national park authority, find out what responsibilities you have for your LAF.

  • A framework for green space

    A proposal to create a new designation to protect green areas of particular importance to local communities

How to win local green space through Neighbourhood Plans

The Open Spaces Society has been defending open spaces in England and Wales since 1865.

This fact sheet is brought to you by the Open Spaces Society - We campaign for stronger protection for common land, village greens, open spaces, and public paths in England and Wales, and for greater opportunities for everyone to enjoy them. As a small charity, memberships are vital to our ability to continue to support more than 600 cases annually helping individuals, groups and communities to save their local green spaces and paths. Individual membership costs £3/month. Join us today.

1. The long-standing problem of encroachments

1.1 Open land beside our roads has always been vulnerable to encroachment and the society was involved from its start in 1865. Take two encroachment cases, from north and south.
1.2 A Yorkshire writer in 1889 lamented the ‘poor, cramped appearance, narrow and confined irregularities’ of the road from Easingwold to Northallerton, due to ‘adjacent property owners having annexed the rich green borders with which it was once margined’. That probably occurred before the society’s formation.
1.3 In Hertfordshire in 1867 the young society showed its teeth in a delicious battle of landowning Titans. Lord Salisbury fenced in a strip of roadside waste; Lord Cowper (whose access was obstructed) acting on the society’s advice ‘collected a large body of tenants and labourers who under his personal superintendence removed the whole of the fences in one night’.
1.4 The young George Shaw-Lefevre, the society’s founder and later its president and chairman, was obviously behind this; he had already dealt with a roadside encroachment near his home at Ascot and the thing rankled until much later when, as an MP and minister, he saw to it that the protection of roadside wastes became an express task of the new county councils in 1888 and the new district and parish councils in 1894.
1.5 Before the war the society published a pamphlet, Roadside Wastes, by the late W R Hornby Steer, MA LLB, its standing counsel. This appeared first as an article in the society’s Journal in July 1936, was revised in 1946 and again in 1994, and subsequently published as an information sheet, Highway Verges l. It drew on long experience and quoted at length from leading judgments in the courts. The availability now of detailed legal commentary in the society’s book Rights of Way(1)—a guide to law and practice enables this briefing to take a different approach. It complements the book throughout but a few specific references have been given.

(1) John Riddall and John Trevelyan, 4th edition, 2007

 

2. A road is wider than its maintained carriageway

2.1 Where a road runs between enclosed properties there is usually on each side of the hard carriageway a strip of land which, physically at least, is open to the public. The strip may be occupied by a pavement, or carriageway widening may have reduced it to a mere vestige.
2.2 But in typical landscape we can enjoy two grass verges. They may be uni-form in width for long stretches, or the back boundary can be irregular and full of variety. The eye of an archaeologist or the patience of a local historian may be needed to say why any particular strip of verge has its own special width and shape, and when its back boundary came to be what it is—a bank, a hedge, a field wall or the wall of a building.
2.3 Where the road runs through land that is not enclosed, there may be nothing to show how much of the adjoining land belongs to the road. Quite probably none of it does unless proved otherwise (see paragraphs #34 and #35 below).

3. A road has to accommodate all its lawful users

3.1 What we now call a road is usually a route intended for multiple uses: for walking, riding or driving stock, and for wheeled traffic. Only ‘special roads’, especially motorways, or roads subject to a traffic regulation order, are restricted.
3.2 That was not always so. Many highways that were called roads were not used, intended or even practicable for wheeled traffic. The very names ‘drove road’ and ‘packhorse road’ illustrate this. There was not much wheeled traffic until at most 250 years ago and then only on particular roads. A bridleway could be called a road. It is an anachronism to suppose that a ‘road’ shown on an eighteenth-century map was necessarily a carriageway.
3.3 Before public roads were properly made and maintained, the users needed freedom to deviate and to find the best route over an adequately wide strip of open land. This was so whether one travelled on foot or horseback, with a horse-drawn vehicle, or droving cattle or sheep.
3.4 Where local conditions rendered the road swampy or liable to erode, the strip would be wider than where the ground was hard and well drained. Only if the ad-joining land was being inclosed or became cultivated was it necessary to define what open width travellers needed; then the landholder must either leave enough for any necessary deviation, or must accept liability for maintaining a roadway such as to be serviceable without deviation. Normally the landowner chose the former so that the parish would remain liable for maintenance.
3.5 Proper maintenance removes the need to deviate. But today, with maintained carriageways used to their limit by vehicles, a verge is essential on many roads for enabling pedestrians and horse-riders to use them safely. Where carriageway widening has left insufficient level verge, vehicles will soon oust from the highway all pedestrians and horse-riders who care for their safety. Highway authorities and the public purse have been party to this appropriation of roads by vehicles. The loss of verges for ridden horses results surely from an unreasonably narrow interpretation by highway authorities of their statutory duty (see paragraph 43 be-low).

4. The full width of a public road is a highway

4.1 When open land lies alongside a public road, and the public uses it for passage, the presumption will arise that the land has been dedicated as part of the highway (Rights of Way, pages 42–59). The rule is: once a highway, always a high-way, even if the needs and habits of the public have changed and the land is now little used. So this open land is just as integral to the highway as the metalled carriageway is.
4.2 Only with the specific authority of statute are obstructions lawful, such as traffic signs and bus shelters and new trees and certain apparatus of statutory undertakers. Even for road-stone knapping dumps — once commonplace along publicly-maintained roads — the old highway authorities would often acquire plots extending back from the road, rather than use the verge.

5. Planting and mowing the verge (2)

5.1 Highway authorities lawfully may put trees, shrubs and plants within the highway limits, and lay out the verge, and protect these with guard rails and even fences. A district or parish council can do the same with the highway authority’s consent. However the public has some safeguard: none of this may be done ‘in such a situation as to hinder the reasonable use of highway by any person entitled to use it’.
5.2 A frontager too can be licensed by the highway authority to plant and maintain trees, shrubs, grass and any other plants. So a flower garden can be licensed. Each frontage needs a separate licence. The safeguards for the public are different from where the council does the work. In particular, there is no power to license the frontager to erect stakes or a fence or other protection. Also it is left to the discretion of the authority to include in the licence any necessary conditions ‘to ensure the safety and convenience of passengers in the highway and to prevent traffic therein being delayed’.
5.3 Under some local legislation, where a particular highway verge is ‘mown or otherwise maintained in an ornamental condition’, perhaps under the above powers, the council can prohibit horses on it. In Essex the provision is circumscribed by useful amendments secured by petitioners while the Essex Bill (now the Essex Act 1987) was going through parliament (3).
5.4 Anyone concerned for the rights of the public over a highway verge should be watchful of these council powers. It would be helpful to get a copy of any provision in local legislation. While walkers and riders are being ousted from carriage-ways by traffic, it would be very wrong if they are ousted too from their use of such verge as there is.

(2) Highways Act 1980, ss.96 and 142

(3) S.6(2)(c) obliges the local authority to: ‘…consult the British Horse Society and the Byways and Bndleways Trust before exercising the powers of [prohibition of entry] so as to prohibit the entry of horses onto any land forming part of a highway.’

6. The highway may not include all the open land beside it

6.1 By no means is it implied that all land which lies open to the road is high-way, even where the road runs between enclosed properties. The highway may not extend to the physical boundaries. Such of the adjacent land as does lie within the highway limits is given a name by the Highways Act 1980, section 130: ‘roadside waste comprised in a highway’. The word ‘waste’ carries no derogatory or dismissive sense, any more than when we speak of the waste land of a manor or manorial waste. Sometimes roadside waste is indeed manorial waste but not necessarily so.
6.2 The words of section 130 concede that uncultivated land which lies open to a public road can be called roadside waste even when it is not comprised in the highway. When we see some pleasant roadside waste how can we tell whether the whole of it or part of it is comprised in the highway?
6.3 No statutory map exists for demarcating the highway boundary. But many highway authorities keep informal maps of ‘highway extent’, which show, in the opinion of officers, the width of publicly-maintainable highways (frequently, these may be based on nothing more than what appears to be shown on old maps as the highway boundary). In a case where the highway authority thinks some stretch of roadside waste is unnecessarily wide for the needs of a modern road, it may be less than enthusiastic about exercising or asserting highway rights over the ‘excess’ width. It may even propose making an extinguishment order whereby the ‘excess’ would revert to the frontager.
6.4 Conversely, where the highway boundary is not physically defined, a frontager may be found pushing the boundary outwards too far, perhaps by ploughing or afforestation or gardening. Failing precise evidence of highway dedication, a compromise line may be agreed with the frontager, and marked with posts.

7. Registered roadside waste

7.1 Much roadside waste was registered as common land under the Commons Registration Act 1965(4), perhaps right up to the carriageway. Some highway surveyors objected at the provisional stage and asked for what they regarded as a suitable width of verge to be taken off the register. This was because, for registration purposes, common land was defined not to include any land which forms part of a highway, and it was thought that registration might be seen as evidence against highway rights over that verge. This would make carriageway widening difficult.
7.2 Town and village greens were defined differently from common land, so as not to exclude any highway running over them. But this by no means implies that greens can be pared back for carriageway widening, even if there is evidence of highway rights beyond the carriageway edge. In the society’s view, widening a highway verge (even if highway rights are proven) which forms part of a registered town or village green demands that the green be deregistered.

(4) Such land may now be registered as common land under Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006.

8. Roads under inclosure awards

8.1 In each case, the true line of the highway boundary is a mixed question of fact and law. Perhaps the simplest case is where a ‘public carriage road or highway’ was allotted by an inclosure award, for the award defines the width in feet and usually requires a wall or ditch to be constructed and maintained immediately out-side the highway limit; that is to say, the measurement is taken ‘between the ditches’ or the walls.
8.2 A range of standard widths was adopted, varying somewhat between different localities and different inclosure commissioners. The Inclosure Act 1801 required an allotted public carriageway to be 30 feet wide at the least, the 1845 act 20 feet. The widths of allotted highways normally differ from those for private occupation roads in the same award. Often the width can be seen to change where the awarded road ends, such as at a parish boundary.

9. Turnpike roads

9.1 Turnpike trustees making a road through enclosed land would have to negotiate for the width they needed. But after 1828 they were empowered to make or widen a road across ‘any common or waste lands, without making any satisfaction…so that such road shall not exceed sixty feet in width (5)’. A similar clause might be found locally in earlier acts. It may help to be aware of this maximum width, particularly in relation to former turnpike roads constructed across common land (whether or not it remains common land).

(5) General Turnpike Road Act 1828 section IX.

10. The evidence of walls and fences

10.1 Where there are physical boundaries on both sides of the road which seem to have been aligned by reference to it, one starts with a presumption of law that the whole width between them is highway. It has been expressly stated by the courts that this is no less applicable where the width of the road is ‘varying and unequal’, than it is where the width is uniform(6).
10.2 Where evidence is lacking either for or against the roadside land having been dedicated as highway, the law presumes ‘that the public right of passage, and therefore the highway, extends to the whole space between the fences and is not confined to such part as may have been made up. In other words, the fences do mark the limit of the highway unless there is something in the condition of the road or the circumstances to the contrary(7)’.
10.3 It is necessary to consider what sort of layout might amount to ‘something in the condition of the road or the circumstances to the contrary’, such as to show that the physical boundaries were not aligned by reference to the road. This might be the case where a road has been constructed through a preexisting enclosure without erecting new roadside fences.
10.4 On principle, the presumption should apply equally where the road was aligned alongside and by reference to an existing fence, as where a fence was aligned alongside and by reference to an existing road; but the courts do not seem yet to have dealt specifically with the former case.
10.5 Other examples occur of physical boundaries that were not constructed by reference to the road. One case is where they mark the back edge of common land or a village green and appear unrelated to the highway (other than that the highway happens to run close to the boundary). Another case is the entrance to adjoining property where the fences are set back — though the layout can prove difficult to interpret, especially at a road corner.

(6) R v United Kingdom Electric Telegraph Co Ltd (1862) 31 LJMC 166 at 167.

(7) Attorney-General v Benyon [1969] 2 WLR 1447, per Goff LJ at 1453.

11. Road across open land

11.1 It has been stated by the Country Land and Business Association that ‘where a metal road crosses unenclosed land, and there is no indication of the limits of the highway by fences, ditches etc then the presumption is that the public right of way is limited to the metal track(8)’.
11.2 Assuming that is correct, this presumption could be displaced by sufficient evidence of public use; but the sufficiency would have to be considered in the light of the decision in Countess of Belmore v Kent County Council showing (to summarise) that evidence of merely occasional uses of roadside waste did not necessarily establish it as highway(9). Old stones set a little way back from the carriageway can sometimes be found; evidently an ancient attempt to define the width.

(8) Advisory Memorandum L3/88.

(9) [1901] 1 Ch 873

12. Special cases

12.1 It is easy to think of special cases where roadside waste adds greatly to the texture, the beauty, the interest and the utility of the place. One thinks of the land in a road fork, which may be a substantial area locally called a ‘cocked hat’. There is the land between a road and an adjacent river. Modern road-making has created strips between the main road and its service road, and between the old road and a realigned one. There are modern ‘open plan’ frontages, some at least of which are declared to be part of the highway. In some cases a public footpath or bridleway runs along the waste independently of the adjacent highway comprising the carriageway. The status of all these depends on the particular facts.

13. Ownership

13.1 If a highway is publicly maintainable — as most public roads are — the surface is vested in the highway authority in fee simple. This includes the surface of roadside waste comprised in the highway(10). Therefore the consent would be needd of the highway authority, simply as owner, for the frontager to do such things on the verge as creating a garden or planting shrubs or making impediments with stones, posts or chains; for these things would be on land vested in the authority.
13.2 However the authority’s ownership confers no power to give consent for any obstruction on the highway unless authorised by statute: see paragraphs #11–13 above. No less is that the case where the authority has acquired the full freehold, of the surface and subsoil, for road widening or construction.
13.3 Frontagers sometime argue that an area of roadside waste is ‘on their deeds’ and therefore not part of the highway. This is an entirely false argument. Adjoining owners are normally presumed to own up to the centre line of the highway, whether or not it is on their deeds.
13.4 All land is owned by someone, so every highway is over someone’s land. But this ownership is of the subsoil only, for not even where their deeds expressly include the land does this affect the statutory vesting of the surface in the highway authority.
13.5 The ownership of roadside waste not comprised in a highway is often unknown. That may be the very reason why the land has remained open and unenclosed. Locally it may be thought that the land was originally manorial waste, but there is no legal presumption of this, and any claim that it is still manorial waste would have to be proved in conveyancing terms. In one reported case, old maps showed it to have formerly been an enclosed plot.

(10) For ownership of the subsoil see Rights of Way, p.21.

14. Grazing

14.1 Where a road allotted by an inclosure award comprised useful herbage, the award might allot the grazing rights to parish officers to be let annually at a rent in aid of parish funds. This is the ceremony known as ‘letting the lanes’. The right has been inherited either by the present highway authority or by the parish council.

15. Margins for horses and livestock

15.1 The Highways Act 1980 provided as follows:
‘It is the duty of a highway authority to provide in or by the side of a highway maintainable at the public expense by them which consists of or comprises a made-up carriageway adequate grass or other margins as part of the highway in any case where they consider the provision of margins necessary or desirable for the safety or accommodation of ridden horses and driven livestock… (11).’
15.2 The words ‘in or by the side of a highway’ enable the riding or droving strip to be put at either the front or the back side of the fence bounding the road. But the decision whether a strip is ‘necessary or desirable’ at all lies within the discretion of the authority: a discretion to be exercised reasonably.

(11) Highways Act 1980, s.71(1).

16. Protection of public rights

16.1 The Highways Act 1980 also provides as follows:
‘(1) It is the duty of the highway authority to assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of any highway for which they are the highway authority, including any roadside waste which forms part of it.
(2) Any council may assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of any highway in their area for which they are not the highway authority, including any roadside waste which forms part of it.
(4) Without prejudice to the foregoing provisions of this section, it is the duty of a local highway authority to prevent any unlawful encroachment on any road-side waste comprised in a highway for which they are the highway authority.
(6) If the council of a parish or community [or, in the case of a parish or community which does not have a separate parish or community council, the parish meeting or a community meeting](12) represent to a local highway authority…
(b) that an unlawful encroachment has taken place on a roadside waste comprised in a highway for which they are the highway authority, it is the duty of the local highway authority, unless satisfied that the representations are incorrect, to take proper proceedings accordingly and they may do so in their own name(13).

16.2 The remedies available to a highway authority for implementing its section 130 duty, and also the following two High Court decisions, are detailed on pages 243–245 of Rights of Way.
16.3 In R v Surrey County Council ex parte Send Parish Council(14), a parish council succeeded in enforcing subsection (6) against the county council who wanted to substitute another highway instead of doing its duty towards the existing one.
16.4 In R v Lancashire County Council ex parte Guyer(15), a serious dispute existed over whether the way in question was a highway, and the county council was held justified in declining to act under the section.
16.5 For more information about the power conferred on parishes to enforce against unlawful encroachments on roadside waste, see the society’s information sheet Parishes dealing with highway obstructions.

(12) Subs.(6) has been clarified here by inserting brackets.

(13) Highways Act 1980, s.130 (part).

(14) [1979] JPL 613 DC.

(15) [1980] 1 WLR 1024.

17. How highway maintenance affects nature conservation

Other aspects which will interest the ecologically-conscious verge-watcher are revealed by a survey published by the former Nature Conservancy in 1972(16).
51. A total area was estimated for England and Wales of 178,000 hectacres of ‘land associated with highways’ excluding the metalled carriageways. By visiting 58 county highway departments it was established that some 97,000 hectacres of that total were actively managed by cutting or otherwise. The amenity value of verges was recognised by the departments as just one benefit among others:
a. in giving visibility at bends,
b. in providing space for apparatus, snow, salt, vehicles in emergency, and road drainage,
c. in ‘fitting’ a road, into its surroundings, to the psychological benefit of road users,
d. in separating pedestrians and horse riders from vehicles,
e. in providing ‘an area of countryside to which the public has unhindered access within limits imposed by traffic’, and
f. in the conservation of natural fauna and flora of the countryside.
52. The survey found that the conservation of nature on rural verges was much affected by the way they were managed by highway departments. Wide diversity was revealed in both methods and objectives. There were differences in when and how the vegetation was cut, in the use of chemicals for control-ling growth, in whether road sweepings were deposited on them, in salting policies with consequent spray, and in other factors. There were local differences too in constructing verges, in their height relative to the carriageway, in the seed mixtures used and as to the importing of topsoil, all affecting them as habitats.
53. Highway departments, and perhaps local divisional surveyors, each had their own thoughts on management. Yet ‘in formulating their verge maintenance programmes, counties are clearly influenced by what people (either in organisations, or individually) say they want…In general there is greater public pressure for more cutting rather than less…Complaints of too much cut-ting tend to be concerned with…wildlife…’.
54. However, if matters are still as they were in 1972 (and there is little reason to conclude that these tensions have been resolved), there is room for public opinion to make itself felt: ‘in any county the number of complaints in any one season may number fewer than a dozen unless a really controversial policy is adopted…’. Comments from representative organisations were specially valued.

(16) J M Way, Road Verges on Rural Roads.

This information sheet was written by the late Richard Harland, a former trustee of the society.
While the Open Spaces Society has made every effort to ensure the information obtained in this information sheet is an accurate summary of the subject as at the date of publication, it is unable to accept liability for any misinterpretation of the law or any other error or omission in the advice in this information sheet.

© Open Spaces Society, November 2019

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  • Parishes dealing with highway obstructions

    Town, parish and community councils are likely to take a strong proprietorial interest in their parish rights of way, and in their local highway network generally.

  • Frequently asked questions: Rights of Way

    Common questions about rights of way.

  • Government Guidance - Public Access and Rights of Way in England

    Insider hacks: three Government publications that will help you to protect public access and rights of way.

  • Taking action

    Challenging councils who have failed to make progress with definitive map change applications

  • Local Access Forums: role of the local authority

    As a local authority or national park authority, find out what responsibilities you have for your LAF.

  • Local authority rights of way improvement plans

    As a local authority you must review your rights of way improvement plan every 10 years.

  • Authorising structures on rights of way

    Good practice guidance for local authorities on compliance with the Equality Act 2010

  • Path Paraphernalia

    Removing and improving path-paraphernalia

  • Restoring the Record

    Our former trustee, Phil Wadey, and his colleague Sarah Bucks have published the second edition of their book, Rights of Way – Restoring the Record

  • What to do about overgrown paths

    Our recommended action if you happen to come across an overgrown path.

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