31.1 Andrew Houldey, Asset Data Officer (PROW definitive Map) gave a detailed presentation to the Committee aided by a power-point presentation which included photographs of the claimed route under consideration. (For information – A copy of the presentation slides has been uploaded to the Council’s website, and a copy is included in the signed minute book).
31.2 The Committee noted that interest in the status of the claimed route was raised following the submission of a planning application from Mr Grindrod owner of 20 Castle Mead to demolish the existing bungalow and erect four dwelling houses on the land. On the plan accompanying the application the footpath was shown as a ‘permissive access route’ and being under the ownership of Mr Grindrod. Local residents who did not support the application questioned the ownership of the path and consequently collected evidence and made an application to safeguard the status of the claimed route.
31.3 The Asset Data Officer explained that whilst there was no overt act that could be considered to have brought the right of the public to use the way into question, Section 69 of the 2006 Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act clarified that an application for a definitive map modification order was sufficient to bring a right of way into question under Section 53 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. An application for a definitive map modification order was made on 31 October 2014, therefore the qualifying period of use was taken to be 1994 to 2014.
31.4 The Committee noted that that the claimed route provided a safer route for pedestrians between Castle Mead and the local facilities in Castle Street. The Asset Data Officer emphasised that it was clear from the submitted user forms that there had been extensive use of the claimed way by walkers in a manner that was supportive of a claim to record the way as a public footpath.
31.5 In response to a question, the Asset Data Officer explained that the landowner had supplied a photograph of a sign that he had uncovered when clearing land behind his property that he bought from Stroud District Council in 1989. The sign was barley legible; however according to the landowner the sign included the words ‘…The use of this footpath shall not lead to its dedication as a highway..’ The Asset Data Officer explained that the sign would only be effective in preventing dedication whilst it was in place and was clearly visible to path users. He added that the sign had been removed by 1989, and therefore was not in place during the qualifying period of 1994 to 2014.
31.6 In response to a question, the Asset Data Officer clarified that if the signage had been in place over the qualifying period and was clear and legible, thus the lack of intention to dedicate was made overt to path users, then the signage would have defeated a claim for a footpath.
31.7 A member made reference to the small County Council sign saying ‘No cycling on the footpath’ which several of the witnesses had referred to. The Asset Data Officer commented that the sign would have been placed following complaints from local residents that cyclists were using the route, and solely on the basis of local knowledge that the route was being used a footpath.
31.8 Having considered all of the information before it, the Committee
That an order be made to add a length of public footpath to the Definitive Map of Public Rights of Way as claimed.