We have praised Norfolk County Council for taking enforcement action on public paths in the county. Last year the council served a notice on the landowner who had illegally blocked the public footpath which runs alongside Little Hautbois Hall, the £1.8-million Tudor mansion in the parish of Buxton with Lammas. The landowner gave in and removed the obstructing gate and fence. Now the path may be walked again by everyone.
Between July 2007 and December 2009, the council served 288 initial notices on landowners to remove obstructions. It had to serve a further 49 notices on those who did not comply.
Says Ian Witham, our Norfolk local correspondent: ‘The council is seeing some good results from this tough action. Now landowners are more often putting paths right after the first contact from the council, so it does not need to serve notices. The landowners know that, if they transgress, they could end up in court with a hefty fine and a criminal record.
‘The rights-of-way network in Norfolk extends to some 2,355 miles and has immense historic and amenity value, with unique views of town and countryside. The footpath at Little Hautbois Hall is a fine example of the benefits of public paths.
‘Although the state of the path network has improved considerably in recent years, it still suffers from problems. A significant proportion of routes cross arable farmland where farmers have responsibilities to keep paths clear of crops and to reinstate after ploughing. Their record of compliance with the path law has been poor over the years, but Norfolk’s notice-serving policy has started to bring real results. Farmers appear to be getting the message that non-compliance is no longer an option.
‘We hope that this improvement will continue and we support the county council in its get-tough policy,’ Ian concludes.