Agenda item

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
Definitive Map Modification Order Investigation
Addition of Restricted Byway known as Dark Lane from Lee Lane, Bispham to Bentley Lane, Hilldale


A report was presented on an application for the addition of a Restricted Byway from Lee Lane, Bispham to Bentley Lane, Hilldale, to the Definitive Map and Statement of Public Rights of Way, as shown on the Committee plan between points A-B-C-D-E-F.


A site inspection had been carried out in July 2021.


A variety of maps, plans and other documents had been examined to discover when the route came into being and to try and determine what its status may be.


Committee were advised that there was sufficient evidence that this route was already regarded as part of the highway network in the early nineteenth century, and that it continued to be recorded as such on the various documents examined and that, on balance, a dedication by an owner many decades ago could be inferred. In addition, disuse of a route did not take away the public rights. There had been no legal stopping up of those rights and it was therefore advised that the legal maxim "once a highway always a highway " would apply; landowners' comments of today did not affect where this old highway ran.


County Councillor Pope informed Committee that he had been approached by a Hilldale Parish Councillor who had expressed concern that the Parish Council had not been consulted on this application. In addition, the occupier of the school house and a local farmer had been in touch and stated that the iron railings across Dark Lane had been there since the late 1940s as it was a dangerous track with a drop behind the railings of 20-30 feet.


County Councillor Pope proposed that the item be deferred until the Parish Council had been given the opportunity to provide their comments.


County Councillor Oakes referred to the 'once a highway, always a highway' legal maxim and stated that the route could be made safe but asked for assurance on steps to be taken to ensure Hilldale Parish Council had the opportunity to comment on the application.


It was reported that Hilldale Parish Council had been consulted in October 2021, but that they had not provided a response.


County Councillor Salter questioned whether the county council's consultation process with parish councils needed reviewing and stated that the quality of information provided to them was essential in order for them to be in a position to provide comments. David Goode agreed that the consultation process needed reviewing as it was the county council's responsibility to ensure consultees were provided with sufficient information on the proposals. In addition, it was important to make it clear to parish councils that a response was expected. It was noted that parish councils often provided no comments on applications although it was appreciated that they were in a difficult position as they often represented opposing views from landowners and residents.


David Goode suggested that the county council could provide a short online training video that parish councils could refer to when considering these type of applications and the Chair asked for definitions of footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic to be included within any guidance.


After a discussion, Committee were informed that, should they agree to make an Order but not to promote the Order to confirmation (as set out at Recommendation iii of the report), the matter could be returned to Committee once representations had been received from the parish council, for a decision on what stance to take regarding confirmation.


David Goode suggested that a proposed new consultation process be brought to the next meeting for the Committee to see. The Chair asked for the new process to include the request that parishes acknowledge receipt of the consultations. It was noted that general public rights of way training for parish councils was also planned.


A vote took place on the proposal for deferral of this application. Upon being put to the Vote, the Motion was Lost.


It was therefore:




(i)  That the application for a Restricted Byway along Dark Lane be accepted.


(ii)  That an Order be made pursuant to Section 53 (2)(b) and 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 Restricted Byway along Dark Lane as shown on Committee Plan between points A-B-C-D-E-F.


(iii)  That not being satisfied that the higher test for confirmation can be met with the information available, the matter be returned to Committee for a decision regarding confirmation, once the statutory period for objections and representations to the Order had passed.

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