“Obstructing a PROW is a criminal offence. Local authorities have the right to demand that an obstruction be removed. If you refuse or neglect to do this, they are allowed to remove the obstruction and recover the costs of doing so from you.”
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs – 13 June 2013.
If that isn’t bad enough, one of the landowners, Mrs Day, of Moat Cottage, applied to Bedford Borough Council for a public path order to extinguish the path (close it to the public forever). The Council (which doesn’t have to accept applications of this type) carried out consultations to gauge some public opinion. No one responded in support. Bedfordshire Rights of Way Association, Higham Ferrers Footpath Group and the Ramblers all said that they would object to an order. The Open Spaces Society wasn’t consulted but informed the Council that it would object if an order was made. Therefore, of those consulted: those For - none; those Against - the many.
So the Council made an order (click here to see the order plan).
The Council will do it’s best to get rid of this public right of way in the interests of the landowners, and the public will contribute toward the costs including those arising from a public inquiry. And bear in mind that the Council is trying to find savings in order to further reduce its budget – services have been cut, redundancies announced and I understand that assets are to be sold.
The Council says that the nearby Footpath No. 44 will serve as an alternative path. The casual reader may think that a reasonable proposition but look closely at the plan - that path is also obstructed.
I can understand a householder not wanting the public crossing their land especially when a path is in close proximity to their house. But millions of houses are close to footpaths, pavements and other highways. Nor is the footpath new or recently discovered. It’s probably centuries old – the house itself is a Grade II listed building dated as 17th Century.
I cannot understand why in the face of such opposition, with more important things to do and with a reducing budget with which to do it, the Council can decide it is a good idea (or “expedient”, as the legislation requires it) to close this footpath forever.
Others should understand that it is my right to be able to walk this path.
Why would I want to?
Well, one of the joys of walking is the knowledge that sometimes you are walking in the steps of those who did so, many years ago. Historically, this path is just as important as the English Heritage Listed and therefore protected 17th Century house it passes. There is evidence for human activity in what is now Wyboston that comes from the Neolithic period (Stone Age, c. 4,000 – 2,000 BC). Footpath No. A11E was formerly part of the The Ouse Valley Way. That section of the long distance trail was probably changed to Footpath No. 44 when Footpath No. A11E was obstructed but it could (and should) be changed back or at least be available as an alternative and more interesting section for those walking that trail.
The consultees opposed to an order considerately suggested diverting the path out of the property instead of extinguishing it, but no; the applicant and the Council want it gone.
Would not that part at least, dear reader, make you just a little bit grumpy too?