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Alan Lyne, our local correspondent for Carlisle City, tells of his success in getting rights of way opened with the threat of a notice under section 56 of the Highways Act 1980.
Trawling back through the Redspearlands Footpaths Group’s archives, Alan came across the papers from a meeting of the Cumbria County Council Development Control and Regulation Committee on 19 February 2008. There was a report written by the then Head of Transport and Spatial Planning, setting out the options for the committee to consider as a means of solving three long-standing cases of obstruction. One of these was the river crossing for BW114036 at Roewath Bridge, near Stockdalewath. The proposed solution consisted of, initially, steps down both embankments so that pedestrians can ‘ford’ the river when conditions permit. This was to be followed by a ramp for equestrians and off-road cycles and, finally, a bridleway bridge.
Despite constant pressure from Redspearlands Footpaths Group and Carlisle Ramblers, nothing was done about the steps on the spurious grounds that the route of the bridleway was disputed by one of the landowners. For the same reason, Carlisle City Council (who at the time had an agency agreement with Cumbria County Council) would not even erect a fingerpost at the start point. This was in spite of the bridleway being on the definitive map.
During 2013, due to budget cuts, the county council took back the agency agreement from Carlisle City. This opened the door for the serving of two notices under s56 of the Highways Act 1980, on the grounds that public highways are out of repair. One of the notices was for the abovementioned bridleway, and the other was for footpath 114049 which is a footpath running along a farm track. Alan served the two s56 notices on the Director of Highways, together with a note claiming lack of surface maintenance over a considerable number of years.
The county council responded, confirming that it was responsible for the maintenance of both public highways. This was followed by an email to Alan from the Senior Countryside Officer suggesting a meeting to discuss the options. When they eventually met, Alan emphasised that he was deadly serious about placing the matter before the court if no action was forthcoming. In addition, he had a powerful written statement from a riding instructor who used to take pupils across the ford until it fell into disrepair. He argued that the other footpath was a straightforward fill-and-roll operation.
The county council denied that there was anything wrong with either highway.
Alan then learnt from other local OSS correspondents of a workshop held for local authority rights of way officers in which they were advised that they should never ignore a s56 notice. On the strength of this, Alan is pursuing the case and the highway authority has now agreed to attend to the paths directly. We look forward to seeing both of them re-opened and in good order.