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Landowners raise doubts over rights of way legislation

Posted 3 August 2012
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Landowners raise doubts over rights of way legislation
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Proposed legislation concerning the establishment of public rights of way may not gain the support of a body representing landowners.

The Country Land and Business Assocoation has expressed concern at the current plans by Defra to reform the system by which rights of way can be claimed by those who want to go walking in the country.

CLA deputy president Henry Robinson outlined the concerns CLA members have, stating:  "Landowners can face claims for rights of way over their land that take many years and cost tens of thousands of pounds.

"Even after a claim has been fought and won, users can start the whole process again if they do not agree. This is unfair and a hugely inefficient process."

He added that the CLA needs the "reassurance" that the cut-off date of 2026 for paths to be claimed and added to the definitive map will be set in stone.

Mr Robinson also called for the government to examine the impact on contemporary land use of discovering a disused path and for it to "respect" the rights of a landowner to divert this.

This development could lead to disruption in the process, unless the government decides to ignore the concerns of the landowners, as acquiescing to their position could lead to opposition from walking groups like the Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society (OSS).

Establishing and protecting rights of way is a key concern for the OSS, which seeks to take up cases with local authorities and landowners where rules on such paths are flouted or disputed.

The latest example of this concerns Waltham Forest council in London, which the OSS has claimed is failing in its duty to show the full width of a path in order to ensure it is added to the definitive map.

It said the application made by local people in 2007 included the provision of evidence regarding the width of the route, with the authority only issuing the official order to establish the path this year.

OSS member Dennis Tilley said the organisation is "dismayed" by the news and general secretary of the body Kate Ashbrok has asked the council to remake the order.