Agenda item

Public Questions on Application(s)

 

To answer any written public questions about the application(s) before the Committee at this meeting.  The closing date /time for the receipt of questions

is 10 am on 22 September 2015.

 

With the consent of the Chairperson, to answer any oral question(s) on the application(s) before the Committee at this meeting put by members of the public, provided that notice of such has been given to the Chief Executive (or his representative) by 9.30am on 29 September.

 

Depending on the nature of the oral questions asked it may not be possible to provide a comprehensive answer at the meeting, in which case a written answer will be supplied as soon as reasonably possible after the meeting.

 

Minutes:

 

No written questions had been received from members of the public on the applications before Committee.

 

The following oral questions were received with the Chairman’s agreement:

 

1.            Mr and Mrs Gardiner

 

My wife and I are the landowners of the footpath that is being consider by the Commons and Rights of Way Committee tomorrow, regarding an application to record its status as a bridleway. I am very concerned that I only became aware this over the weekend, from another local resident.

 

Please be advised that I will be attending the meeting and that I wish to ask the following verbal public questions. By providing these in advance, in writing, Members will hopefully be better forewarned and able to answer them:

 

Question 1 - Last year I advised Andrew Houlday that my wife and I are the current owners of the land affected by the application to upgrade footpath MBL 13 to a bridleway – and I specifically asked Mr Houlday to keep me advised of any developments related to the application. Why was I not advised  of the report and the meeting that is taking place today, to decide matters related to my land, after specifically requesting that Gloucestershire County Council should do so?

 

Question 2 – As a consequence of the Council failing to keep me updated as requested, I had no knowledge of this meeting and report until  thirty six hours ago. I have therefore had insufficient time to research some aspects in the report that I simply disagree with and would have wished to submit public questions to clarify – particularly related to information in the report that is conflicting and inconclusive. Please can these comments be recorded in the minutes as I believe I have been disadvantaged, by being deprived of sufficient time to research and prepare questions which could have better informed Members to decide the application?   

 

Question 3 -  I have always understood that the historical owners of the land gave permission for the footpath to be used by horse riders - and the report prepared for this committee also seems to indicate this more strongly than the route being used as of right. Even some of the user evidence submitted is more indicative of use by consent - such as the evidence of use submitted by Jo Workman: “Mrs Young (the late) said it could be ridden on horseback about 30 years ago”. As Mrs Young was the land owner, this statement appears more likely to be an acknowledgment of the owners permission for  horse riding, around 1980, than acknowledgment of use as of right.  The report also states that, following discussions with the landowner in 1997, it appeared to Officers that historical use of the footpath was permissive rather than as of right. Can Mr Houlday please explain how he has decided that riders were exercising use as of right, when there is reasonable evidence that they were exercising permissive rights?

 

Question 4 – The report states that the date when use with horses came into question is also critical to the decision, because it establishes the commencement date from which horse riders must produce evidence of use. Council officers have defined this as 1996, based on public complaints in 1995 and the “no horse signs installed in October 1996. However, I believe that many horse riders were challenged earlier than this, by local residents, in a similar way to which the user evidence from Heather Silverthorne admits “Lady from Keepers Cottage told me not to ride it as it was not a bridleway”. Such challenges also bring the status of the route into question, so have Officers sought any further input on the date of the above challenge and the extent of other challenges that nearby residents may have made?

 

Question 5 – Readers of the  report will have noted that the “no horses” signs were installed by the Council in October 1996, but there is no reported contact from claimed horse riders of the route until 11 years later, in July 2008. This lack of action or reaction to the signs installed by the Council appears incredible and unexplainable. Can the Council please confirm whether it has a record of any complaints or comments having been received from horse riders, to the signs it installed in 2008?

 

Question 6 – Readers will also have noted that 7 of the evidence forms erroneously refer to the “recently installed” “no hoses signs”. As the signs were installed circa 13 years before the evidence forms were submitted , have Officers investigated why so many claimed users have erroneously made the same thirteen years error in their statements?

 

Question 7 – As evidence form 3,submitted by Flavia Cooper was accompanied by a plan, that admits her use with horses was not over the application route, why is it included in the “Period Of Use” document prepared for Members to show a contribution to user evidence over ML11 and ML 13?

 

Question 8 – Evidence form 9, submitted by Anne Hogg, is totally contradictory. It claims use from the 1970s to 1995 (approx). It then describes that as 40 to 50 years use (approx) – and then goes on to say the frequency of use was approx 4 times a year in the 60s and 5 in the 70s and 80s. Has the Council managed to clarify what use Mrs Hogg is actually claiming – as it clearly cannot be regarded as admissible user evidence as it stands?

 

Question 9 - Will this Committee agree to defer a decision on this application, until I have had reasonable time to conduct some research regarding the report content and conclusions – and construct questions based upon that?

 

2.            Mr Knight

 

Q1: What new evidence is there to contradict the previous GCC officer’s conclusion, after talking to the landowner Mr Young, that "Use of MBL13 appears to be permissive and not as of right."  (15.21)?   

 

- GCC (with Mr Young, the landowner) went to great lengths and expense in 1995 to uphold the footpath status IMMEDIATELY after the period in question

- Surely GCC would not have done this if they did not think it was justified and valid.

 

Q2: Why was this application not submitted during the previous 20 years, when Mr Young (the landowner at the time in question) was alive and able to answer the question about whether the horse use between 1975 and 1995  was "permissive" or "granted to the public of right"?  Why did the applicant (assisted by one of the evidence witnesses who is a member of the Right of Way team on Stroud District Council) wait until Mr Young's death?

 

- This timing seems to be deliberate, in the knowledge that there would be few other witnesses remaining who could challenge their assertion

 

Q3: Why were affected landowners and local residents not informed about this hearing?  In the spirit of transparent governance, should they not be entitled to have access to the full report with sufficient time to research and compile their questions?

 

Q4: The statements 8.1 to 8.14 all mention that Mr Young as the landowner granted permissive use by horses on his section of the footpath. Has anyone from GCC asked any other landowners or local residents SPECIFICALLY whether use of the footpath by horses was regularly challenged by them during the period 1975-1995?  I ask this as in the very limited time I have had, I have been able to identify at least one person who stopped and challenged horseriders during this period.

 

This fact is also freely admitted in several of the horseriders evidence statements!

 

Having formally noted receipt of the questions which all referred to agenda item 6, the Committee agreed that officers should be asked to respond to the matters raised in writing in due course.