The Great PROW Swindle

The West Riding Memo is the Original Sin of public rights of way management in this area. You can trace this early fitties fiddle through a long lineage of dodgy deals, nods & winks and theft of public access rights through to the 2020’s comedy calamities often featured on PathWatch. The laws and regulations surrounding public rights of way are only as good as those that administer them.

One of the effects of this swindle is the chronic lack of bridleways in the area. Rye Close Lane is recorded on the current Definitive Map and Statement as a 4 foot wide public footpath. Yet the original surveys record a RUPP (road used as public path) up to 12 feet wide. The surveys also record that part of the route was awarded in the Holme Inclosure Award as a road. The surveys were carried out by Holmfirth Urban District Council and are shown below.

Original Survey Sheet Holmfirth FP 66 records the route as a 12 foot wide RUPP
Second Survey Sheet for Holmfirth 66 records route as a Rupp up 9 feet wide.

That the route ended up on the Definitive Map and Statement as a 4 foot wide footpath would be something of a mystery but for the existence of a number of memos, including the West Riding Memo. It’s clear that the highway authority at the time was concerned at the potential maintenance liability of 12 foot wide bridleways and footpaths. It clearly bent the law to avoid this liability.

The document below shows an objection from Holmfirth Urban District Council to the inclusion of the route as a bridleway on the Definitive Map And Statement. It’s objecting to what it’s own surveyors have discovered! Without any explanatory remarks or evidence the route is downgraded to footpath and the width from 12 feet to 4 feet.

4 thoughts on “The Great PROW Swindle”

  1. Ironic that the current owners of the land the HOL 66 passes through are particularly defensive of its status right now. Thanks for this Andy. Hugely helpful to the aims of those seeking restoration of higher rights for 2026.

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  2. The West Riding Memo is included in my submission to a Public Inquiry coming up on 22nd September 2021 (Somerset) as part of my national campaign to get Restricted Byway recognition for the ‘cross road’ status/annotation in 17th to 19thC old road map legends (like Greenwoods etc) which was indicated by the Planning Inspectorate in 1997 on publication of my book “What is a Cross Road?” This was on the basis of the Hollins v Oldham High Court ruling 1995 (unreported) that a ‘cross road’ (nothing to do with junctions) was, on the balance of probability, a secondary public carriageway (a road running across between two other roads: a by road..OED).
    Further support is found in Trafford v St Faith’s RDC (1910) and Fortune v Wiltshire Council Appeal Court Ruling (2012) as well as in statutes, cartography, and writings on highways, political economy, civil engineering, road building and repairs, journeys, postal services, coaching, etc.
    If this body of evidence is ignored or diminished and restricted byway status is not awarded to the order routes, the Inspector will have “erred in law” according to my barrister and I hope to challenge the decision at Judicial Review in the High Court with the help of horse riders, carriage drivers, the British Horse Society and any ‘path watchers’ who support this campaign to reverse the travesty of the 1950’s subversion of democracy when the evidence discovered by original survey of paths in the old West Riding and other counties, was willfully “buried” and ‘Roads Used as Public Paths’ ten feet plus wide (public carriageways) were falsely recorded as “footpaths 4′ wide” irrespective of their true status and width. [].
    For more on this read my updated version of “What is a Cross Road?” at

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