PathWatch has monitored this route for 4 years and once again there has been no reinstatement of the path following ploughing and cropping within the 14 days required by law. Or at all in fact.
Interestingly Kirklees have owned up to having visited the path but have proffered no further information. Perhaps it was for a ramble, picnic or to enjoy the view? It certainly does not appear to have been to discharge the authorities duties under section 134 of the Highways Act.
The only difference on the ground is a crop of obstructing oats instead of barely and a wooden post at either end of the field marking the start/finish of Footpath 135 through the crop. This has had the effect of concentrating walkers onto a line and partly trampling the crop. It falls well short of full reinstatement within the legal definition. There should be a 1.2m clear width for Footpath 135 through this crop.
Public access to the English countryside by right is very limited. Most of it is on the country’s public rights of way network. A network that is legally recorded and protected to some extent by law. However,those laws are only as strong as the local authority enforcing them.We’re practically flatlining here in Kirklees as far as protecting public access rights to any consistent or reliable degree.
The law for cropping as laid out in section 134 could hardly be clearer to understand or enforce. Why is it so hard for Kirklees Council to apply?
Farmers and land managers must follow the government’s cross compliance rules if claiming subsidies through the Basic Payment Scheme. These rules include public rights of way and are very simple and straightforward. See below –
What you must not do and must do You must not: • wilfully obstruct public rights of way without lawful authority or excuse • disturb the surface of public rights of way without lawful authority or excuse, with the exception of ploughing the surface of a footpath or bridleway when it is not reasonably convenient to avoid doing so. You must: • maintain stiles, gates and similar structures across a footpath or bridleway in a condition that makes them safe and reasonably easy to use • where you have had to disturb the surface of a cross field path or bridleway: • make good the surface of cross field footpaths and bridleways to not less than the minimum width within 14 days of it first being disturbed if you are sowing a crop, or within 24 hours in all other circumstances. Minimum widths are 1 metre for footpaths and 2 metres for bridleways • indicate the route of a reinstated cross field footpath or bridleway so that it’s visible on the ground and is at least the minimum width of the recorded route. These rules apply to visible public rights of way only.
This of course is really just a reinforcement of the existing law and it shouldn’t really be necessary. The fact that it is is a recognition that the law is being ignored by many landowners and goes unenforced by many local highway authorities.
So you’d think people claiming thousands of pounds from the taxpayer would abide by the terms and conditions of the deal? Funny thing is the countryside is littered with examples of the law being ignored and the cross compliance regulations being treated with a similar contempt.
Here’s some bad phone photos of an example on land where over £17,000 in Basic Payment Scheme money is being claimed. So in addition to the Highways Act law on rights of way applying so to do the regulations on cross compliance. Just bear in mind the part of the regulations which states –
You must: • maintain stiles, gates and similar structures across a footpath or bridleway in a condition that makes them safe and reasonably easy to use