The disposal of open space on Swansea’s Kilvey Hill

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Swansea Council advertised notice of disposal of open space on Kilvey Hill, under section 123(2A) of the Local Government Act 1972, in anticipation of the council granting planning permission for the massive Skyline leisure development on the hill.  The Open Spaces Society was among many objectors, arguing that the disposal was contrary to the council’s policy, since the land was not surplus to requirements, being land of immense value for recreation.  (The closing date for objections has now passed.)

The council has rebutted our statement.  We set out below the council’s statements and our responses (in bold).

‘We completely refute the Open Spaces Society’s claim that any potential disposal by the council of this land would be unlawful.’

The council must act in line with its own policy.  It can only dispose of land if it is surplus, ie not required to deliver its operational functions.  Kilvey Hill provides free informal recreational access to green open space for the public and therefore it is required.

‘If the Skyline plans go ahead, then the company says the development would cover 9% of Kilvey Hill.’

It is disingenuous to take a percentage of the whole hill when about half of it is not available to the public, it is agricultural land or otherwise enclosed.  The publicly accessible land which is affected by the development is in the region of 37 per cent, more than one third.

‘As part of the development Skyline intend to allow free, unhindered access to Kilvey Hill to continue.’

Skyline’s proposed development will not coexist with the free, unhindered access which people have enjoyed up to now. It is on a vast scale and will totally change this much-loved, natural, open landscape.  There will be large buildings and other structures, such as the infrastructure for 22 gondolas, 1.6 kilometres of high-speed luge runs and a 50-metre, multi-towered sky swing.  At least some of the development will be on land mapped as access land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, with areas fenced off for health-and-safety and operational reasons.

‘We have not received any applications to record unregistered routes on Kilvey Hill from the public, and the council is under no obligation to record them as formal public footpaths or bridleways.’

The council has received much evidence of use for routes on the hill, not least at the public inquiry into the creation orders for footpaths in 2012.  The council has a duty, if it discovers evidence of public highways, to make an order to add them to the map.  It has not done so.  It has also not actively encouraged the public to come forward with applications.  It has certainly been pressed to add the routes to the map even if no formal applications have been made.’

‘It is nonsense to claim we have don’t have an updated map. We produced a new edition of the definitive map last year, which shows the many footpaths and bridleways that have been added by the council since 1983. This includes five miles of public footpaths on Kilvey Hill that were recorded in 2012 despite opposition from the Open Spaces Society.’

No definitive map is up to date because routes are constantly being discovered; even when it has just been reviewed it is not up to date.  It is not surprising that Swansea’s map is not comprehensive because it had a late start.  The society (and the British Horse Society) opposed the proposed creation orders for footpaths on Kilvey Hill because we believed that they should be recorded as bridleways and restricted byways, there being evidence of their use as such.  To date no bridleways or byways have been added to the definitive map for Kilvey Hill, despite a long-standing tradition of keeping horses on and around the hill.  We considered it was an inappropriate use of council funds to make creation orders—these imply the routes did not already exist and potentially require compensation to landowners, instead of definitive map modification orders which are to record highways which already exist.

Header photo: Amanda Leighton

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