West Country solicitor Jonathan Cheal is a public rights of way specialist whose services are in demand across the country on a topic which can be a minefield for farmers and landowners alike. He’s also well known for his brightly coloured bow-ties.
Each month he will be exploring different strands of a complicated subject. Today he answers the question : What should I do if I receive a notification of a public right of way application affecting my property?
The temptation to put a notification letter in the bin, behind the clock on the mantle piece or just to ignore it may be great but please don’t.
Don’t just assume it will go away because it won’t. The Council may tell you not to worry because they have a backlog; a comment that may be well meaning, however, suddenly you will find it will come to the front of the pile.
Instead, spend the time researching the background and the evidence. How strong is the case against you? Can you find ammunition to fight it with? In due course prepare a submission to the Council explaining why you believe the claim is a bad one.
A well-documented argument can sometimes work to defer, or even prevent, an adverse decision being made.
It’s not a question of desirability, suitability, or safety; it is only about evidence.
A lot of claimants believe because they have made a claim and nothing has yet happened they can start using the route in the way that they are claiming. It then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some claimants have even been told by Councils that they can use the route pending the outcome of the claim. They can’t.
It is not a grey area in law; it is a black and white area. It is either a right of way or it isn’t. Just because the claim has been put in doesn’t make it a right of way until the order has been made.
It is a crime to ride a motorbike on a footpath or bridleway without lawful authority.
So the moral is: do your research, take advice, and get ahead of the game
Jonathan works with Mogers Drewett which has offices in Bath, Sherborne and Wells. He also regularly attends Market days at Frome Livestock Market. Jonathan can be contacted on 01749 342323.