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We are delighted that a restricted byway has been newly recorded at North Lopham in south-west Norfolk.
Norfolk County Council made a definitive map modification order, following an application made by our local correspondent Ian Witham on behalf of the society, in 2015. The order was confirmed by the council, unopposed, on 1 December 2016.
The route, to the east of the village, is a quiet, enclosed track, some 245 metres long (with a width varying between seven and eleven metres), known locally as Jubilee Lane, and runs between quiet roads known as Tann’s Lane and Primrose Lane.
The route had been recorded on the definitive map as a footpath, but Ian’s claim was based upon historical evidence showing that the route was actually an old public road.
Back in March 2009, the county council entered into an agreement with the landowner to dedicate a footpath along part of the route, but unfortunately failed to consult the society, or to carry out any research of its own to establish that the route already had long carried higher rights for the public.
Says Ian: ‘This is excellent news for the public, who now have a clear, unequivocally recorded right to enjoy this route, not just on foot, but with a horse, pedal cycle or non-motorised vehicle, perhaps as part of a longer ride. It complements the byways to the west of the village, added to the definitive map in 2013, following an application by the North Lopham Parish Council.
‘It is important to remember that, under current legislation, the historic public rights along all of these routes would have been extinguished in 2026, had they not become properly recorded or claimed by that time.
That time is now only nine years away, after which it will be too late. Experience suggests that there still are a great many unrecorded ways in all parts of the county which are potentially at risk from extinguishment if not claimed before 2026, whether they be currently in use or not.
‘Bearing in mind that research is invariably confined to a few volunteers working in their often-limited spare time, I would strongly encourage others to think carefully about any such routes that they may know, be they in town or country. Organisations like the society will be happy to give relevant advice and there are printed guides, especially the excellent book Rights of Way: Restoring the Record by Sarah Bucks and Phil Wadey.
‘Never has there been a time when this particular area of historical research has been more important in the county,’ Ian concludes.