Agenda item

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
Definitive Map Modification Order Investigation
Addition of Footpath from Hodder Street, Accrington


A report was presented on an application for the addition of a footpath to the Definitive Map and Statement of Public Rights of Way from Hodder Street, Accrington to a junction with 11-1-FP 49, as shown on the Committee plan attached to the agenda papers between points A and B.


A variety of maps, plans and other documents had been examined to discover when the route came into being, and to try to determine what its status may be. Committee noted that the land crossed by the application route was shown to be undeveloped until at least the mid- 20th Century, with no evidence that the application route existed. For that reason, much of the early map and documentary evidence normally provided in the Committee reports was not included for this application.


Committee were advised they may be content, on balance, to find sufficient evidence to be able to reasonably allege an inference of dedication by the previous landowner of a footpath under common law and that an Order be made. As the confirmation test was a higher test, Committee were advised that, should they agree to an Order being made, once the objection period was over and user evidence more clear, the matter could be returned to Committee for a decision as to what stance to take regarding the confirmation of the Order.


The Chair informed Committee that, on the site visit, she had spoken to a local resident who lived within sight of the application route. The resident stated that mothers and children regularly used the route to get to local schools, to avoid crossing busy roads and that another resident had conducted a survey and had received 400 signatures in favour of maintaining the footpath.


County Councillor Towneley queried whether the route should be recorded as a restricted byway as it was used by all and led elsewhere. County Councillor Towneley pointed out that the evidence presented in the report could not be re-submitted so it was important to take all this evidence into account when considering whether higher rights than a footpath existed.


David Goode informed Committee that seeing others using the route on horseback had much lower evidential value than someone using it themselves, as they would not be aware if the users had permission from or they were related to the landowners. For this location, it was reported that the evidence was quite low, and that legislation required that there had to be a sufficient number of people using the route and that, without full evidence of horseback use, Section 31 of the Highways Act 1980 could not be satisfied.


Committee were reminded that they needed to consider what rights existed along the route, rather than what the general public may want. Horse use in recent years would need to be looked at, in addition to when landownership changed.


County Councillor Salter referred to the motorised wheelchair daily use on the route from the user evidence, and queried what period this covered and what standard would be required on the route for wheelchair users. County Councillor Salter stated that all evidence received, following the end of the statutory period for representations and objections, needed to be considered prior to Committee making a decision on this application.


Committee noted that the route being used daily by a motorised wheelchair user implied that the route had already met a certain standard and it was noted that the county council had to establish when the 'use' that led to the inferred dedication began, as this indicated the nature of the route.


It was re-iterated to Committee that there was sufficient evidence to make an Order for a footpath and that, if this was agreed, the Order would then be advertised, providing an opportunity for users to make representations to be considered at a future Committee, where it could be decided whether higher rights than a footpath existed, as well as what stance the county council should take towards confirmation.




(i)  That the application to add a footpath on the Definitive Map and Statement of Public Rights of Way from Hodder Street, Accrington to a point on 11-1-FP 49 be accepted.


(ii)  That an Order be made pursuant to Section 53 (2)(b) and Section 53 (3)(b) and/or Section 53 (3)(c)(i) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to add to the Definitive Map and Statement of Public Rights of Way a footpath along the route marked between points A and B on Committee Plan.


(iii)  If Committee is not satisfied that the higher test for confirmation can be met it is suggested that once the statutory period for objections and representations to the Order has passed there will have been opportunity for further information to have been submitted and a further report presented as to whether this higher test for confirmation could on balance be satisfied and what stance the authority should take in respect of the Order.


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