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South Hill Footpath Diversion Order Deadline

Posted on 23rd January, 2014

Dear All,

 

As you may already know, North Somerset have issued an order supporting the application by the landowner to divert footpaths on South Hill.

 

Please find attached a copy of the order and the report as made by NS PROW to their November committee that led to their decision to make the order.

 

BOB is concerned that these proposed changes are of no real benefit to the public at large.

 

The deadline for objections is 23rd January 2014 (Thursday this week). Any representations about or objections to the Order may be sent in writing to the Director of Development and Environment, Natural Environment Team, Streets and Open Spaces, Town Hall, Walliscote Grove Road, Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1UJ not later than 23 January 2014 (quoting reference EB/PPO 159). Please state the grounds on which they are made.

 

Objections can be submitted by email so long as the correspondence is an attachment which contains your contact details. This is required because if this matter is referred to the Planning Inspectorate they will only correspond by letter. Please email : Elaine.Bowman@n-somerset.gov.uk and/or streetsandopenspaces@n-somerset.gov.uk quoting all relevant references.

 

Grounds for objection should be related to the Section 119 of the Highways Act (1980) as shown in Section 4 (Legal Tests) and Section 7 (NS Assessment) of the attached NS PROW report. FYI, The detail of Highways Act (1980) is also shown here http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1980/66/section/119

 

From feedback BOB has received the main public objection appears to be covered by part of the Legal Test under the effect that "the diversion would have on public enjoyment of the path or way as a Whole". As written in the PROW officer report attached NS is "aligning the public rights of way’s Definitive Map with routes that seem to be the preferred routes walked by the public". The NS PROW officer also writes "In respect of AX 6/14 it could be stated that this proposed diversion will not be as convenient to the public". Yet NS and Bleadon Parish Council seem to agree with the land owners application to divert the path rather than protecting the public's existing access?

 

The landowner has still blocked the circular route that has historically been enjoyed by the Bleadon walking community for many generations/decades. As the attached PROW report states "This land was previously owned by the Church Commissioners who tenanted out the land. At this time the area was open and available for the public to wander as they wished. Once the current owner took possession of the land he has decided to fence the area off in order to protect his stock". Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to count as part of the Legal Test for this proposal and will need to be dealt with under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

 

FYI, as stated in Section 8 of the NS PROW officer report, "If made, an Order can only be confirmed by North Somerset Council if no objections are received following publication and if the Council is satisfied that the legal tests in S119 of the Highways Act 1980, as outlined in Section 4 of this Report, have all been met. In the event of an objection being sustained, the decision rests with the Public Rights of Way Sub Committee as to whether the matter should be submitted to the Secretary of State for determination or that the Order should be abandoned leaving the legal line unaltered. When referred to the Secretary of State the matter can be dealt with in a number of ways: Written Representations; a Hearing or a Public Inquiry. Written Representations are the least expensive procedure and a Public Inquiry is the most expensive procedure. If objections are sustained, NS has to decide whether to refer to The Secretary of State".

 

Please forward or print this link for others who may wish to respond to this issue before the deadline this Thursday 23rd January 2014

 

Kind regards,

 

Other related Blog posts here

 

Please see an OBJECTION SENT below and Planning Inspectorate website information and/or Planning Inspectorate Booklet Guidance for considering objection to Definitive Map & Public Path Orders

 

Dear North Somerset PROW,
 
We object to the proposed Diversion Order. Reference EB/PPO 159
Grounds for objection of Diversion Order 5 2013 for parts of AX6/12, AX6/14 & AX6/15 with reference to other pre-order consultation comments (copied below).
Under Highways Act (1980) Section 119 (2) and (6) 
 
(2) A public path diversion order shall not alter a point of termination of the path or way
 
(a) if that point is not on a highway, or
(b) (where it is on a highway) otherwise than to another point which is on the same highway, or on a highway connected with it, and which is substantially as convenient to the public NOT AS CONVENIENT, LONGER THROUGH POOR GROUND
 
(6) The Secretary of State shall not confirm a public path diversion order, and a council shall not confirm such an order as an unopposed order, unless he or, as the case may be, they are satisfied that the diversion to be effected by it is expedient as mentioned in subsection (1) above, and further that the path or way will not be substantially less convenient to the public in consequence of the diversion and that it is expedient to confirm the order having regard to the effect which—

 

(a) the diversion would have on public enjoyment of the path or way as a whole, DETRIMENTAL EFFECT, LOSING HISTORIC INTEREST & INCREASING LENGTH VIA POOR CONDITION GROUND.

 

(b) the coming into operation of the order would have as respects other land served by the existing public right of way, and, LOSS OF ACCESS TO KEY POINTS OF INTEREST

 

(c) any new public right of way created by the order would have as respects the land over which the right is so created and any land held with it, MAINTENANCE OF NEW PATH VIA WOODED AREA & WINTER FLOODED LAND

 
The change in length from Point E (AX6/12) to Point J (AX6/14 via F & G) is approximately 297m whereas the proposed replacement route (E, M, H, N, J) will be 654m approximately. Over twice as far and particularly during winter, via water logged land. Not convenient at all!
 
The overall AX6/12 & AX6/15 proposals being longer, more circuitous, in-direct, less convenient and of no benefit to users as the proposed diversions will now avoid historic areas and items of interest on this North Somerset designated, Site of Nature & Conservation Interest (SNCI) Eg: Limestone outcrops and wild flower habitat and a historic farmyard route. The new proposed route to avoid farmyard is also longer, diverts through woodland and then winter flooded land.
 
While the proposed diversions on AX6/12 & AX6/15 may reflect where 'dog walkers' currently walk (based on Aerial Photography), the longer lush grassed areas on the hill's original 'official lines' for AX6/12 would not necessarily show the footwear via the specific areas of interest as mentioned, specifically the stone 'quarry' area and farm shortcut to join AX6/14 and cross the River Axe to join Somerset paths.  These areas are frequently walked and if the new 'line' is enforced these will be lost forever. 
 
The PROW officer writes that the order is trying to align "the public rights of way’s Definitive Map with routes that seem to be the preferred routes walked by the public". Dog walkers walked these routes because they were using a decades old circular route which the farmer has now blocked (as mentioned in NS PROW officers report referencing previous land ownership). Arguably this 'missing' route should already be a PROW and can be claimed under The Wildlife & Countryside Act with available user evidence over 20 years. Had this route been made a permissive route as part of the proposals then perhaps prolonged objections may not have been raised. 
 
The NS PROW officer also writes "In respect of AX 6/14 it could be stated that this proposed diversion will not be as convenient to the public". AX6/14 does not need to change unless AX6/12 does, so this new proposal is clearly detrimental to the public enjoyment of the existing path as its historic use is now being taken out of context. 
 
The erection of current fencing HAS blocked the 'official line' of existing footpaths for nearly a year but no enforcement action has been taken, also gates have already been installed precisely where the landowner would want them after proposed changes, but without proper full public consultation and BEFORE a diversion order has even been confirmed thus stopping the very use for which the landowner now claims the changes are being proposed! I.E. For the dog owners to walk where they have been used to on a circuit they can no longer complete!  
 
Removing the shorter walk to AX6/14 through a farmyard is also a problem as this is unique and certainly of a Nature & Conservation area Interest as designated by NS, the proposed beneficial replacement riverside views are already freely available from other connecting footpaths and so will be of no real consequence and benefit especially as the AX6/12 route length will be considerably extended and needing a new route for the path to be created and maintained via waterlogged land during winter. 
 
As a final comment, the 'official lines' are probably drawn due to expediency during the digitisation process and perhaps do not truly reflect where the PROWs should actually be on the ground. As can be shown in the north of the hill where the digitised route shown actually goes into a wall! 
 
In conclusion the diversions are only of primary benefit to the landowner and not the varied public users so we must object to the diversions and claim the undigitised/missing route in due course. 
 
Kind regards,
 
Website posts received on this topic are shown below:
1
Posted on 23 May, 2013 by South Hill User
We would like to express our concern over the new fencing on South Hill, Bleadon. While we understand the need to make stock secure, there has been stock on this hill for many years, without this extensive fencing being necessary. The natural beauty of the hill, which is enjoyed by many visitors to the area as well as locals, has been spoiled. This hill is on the edge of the Mendip Hills AONB, attracts many walkers, and with views over the Levels to Glastonbury; it is a Site of Nature and Conservation Interest. Although there are permitted footpaths marked on the map, these differ from the established footpaths which we have been walking for over 30 years. We feel that the current fencing has seriously spoilt our ability to walk across and around the hill whilst enjoying the views and space around it.In addition the top/north side walk from the quarry to Wonderstone has now been blocked by current fencing preventing access to Wonderstone or to complete a circular walk, or onto the Hellenge Hill route. Is there anything that can be done to open up this walk again? Are the other suggested diversions needed as the walks they affect are essentially the same?
2
Posted on 26 May, 2013 by Bleadon Walkers
The most feedback is about the new fencing and the public's inability to complete a circular walk around the hill i.e. the fencing on the north side from the quarry to Wonderstone, and through the centre of the hill, which now cuts off access to one of the Hellenge Hill routes and Wonderstone. Although the north route is not an official one it has been enjoyed by local people and visitors alike for many decades, and locals in particular would like this to continue. Is there anything that can be done to open up this walk again as the current situation has substantially reduced the public's (and particularly the elderly dog walkers) ability to enjoy South Hill, lowering the character, quality and diversity of the walk and views experienced including those over the Somerset Levels and toward Glastonbury Tor. While we understand the farmer's want to ensure that his stock are safe and secure, such fencing has been unnecessary in the past, and certainly not present since we have been using this area.A route through a working farm is unique and a pity to lose. We are concerned that the proposed new route avoiding the farm should not unreasonably lengthen the path and access through to the river Axe or Shiplate. All paths should be maintained to protect users from any potential dangers or hazards e.g. boggy, slippery or overgrown paths to ensure public safety and enable them to use them easily. People are already more concerned that due to the new fencing potential routes of escape from the cows are more limited.We note that the proposed new routes have a minimum width of 2m for the footpaths. We would like to see that these always remain open and not bounded so as to maintain the surrounding natural beauty of the location within the SNCI and adjoining AONB i.e. not corridors of fencing with unsightly metal kissing gates which spoils the look and feel of the area. Although the new installed metal kissing gates interrupt the walk they should be safe and secure in the ground, they currently appear to be a temporary solution or work in progress. The proposed new route, as shown on the North Somerset plan, appears to divert paths away from the small quarry area in the centre of South Hill reducing the public's ability to enjoy this feature of interest. The current footpaths, official and unofficial, are currently maintained by grazing animals so we are keen to ensure that any new proposals should not result in any direct or indirect maintenance costs to the local taxpayer.We have walked South and Hellenge Hills for many years with our child and dog. We feel that the additional fencing and associated kissing gates will make it even more difficult to access and use the hill with pushchairs or other wheeled transport. In summary, when taken in combination with the restrictions of the new fencing, we do not see how these diversions will benefit the public, particularly if the historic circular walk remains blocked, so we must question the point of implementing them.
3
Posted on 28 May, 2013 by Alan K
Dear North Somerset Council PROW May I just make two comments about the reorganisation of footpaths on South Hill, Bleadon - a very well-used amenity by local villagers, an area with a rich limestone flora and an extremely attractive piece of open space that must be protected.First, I would be strongly opposed to any public footpaths being enclosed in fenced corridors as this would not only be unpleasant for walkers it would be detrimental to the visual appearance of the hill.Second, I am concerned that what was an unofficial path, or it may even have been a permissive path, from The Veale to Wonderstone is no longer accessible. I spent 25 years waliking the hill with my dogs from about 1975 to 2000 and although this path was not part of my regular route I expect I will have walked it on occasions. It is a pity that this section is now closed to walkers. I wonder if you could please possibly negotiate a permissive path with the new landowner, to include suitable access, and with a sign saying it is a permissive path only. This would enable this part of the hill to be used by casual and serious walkers and would not be harmful to the grazing regime that the farmer has put in place. I am sure there are many other users of the hill who would wish the path to be reopened.I look forward to hearing from you about such a negotiation.

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