Agenda item

Public Questions & Statements


It was confirmed that two statements had been received from members of the public.  The first submitted by Mr Michael Bartholomew in relation to agenda item 6.  It was agreed his statement would be considered when the Forum moved to that item on the agenda.  The second, submitted by Mr Ian Foster, did not relate to a specific item on the agenda.  Mr Foster read out his statement as follows:


‘I am a keen runner who runs on average 50 miles per week. I moved to South Milford in November 2018. In that time I have explored every right of way in the area and beyond. I have tried to follow the correct channels where I have been unable to follow the definitive map. I am talking to you today because following those channels has been a failure, despite hours and hours of my own time, and I am no further forward than I was when I first emailed the council.


If there were one or two footpath issues  I wouldn’t be here but within 2 miles of my home, there are no less than 4 footpaths that have been obstructed by a third party – 1 by the A1(M), 1 closed illegally by Network Rail, 1 is blocked by a dyke, a fence and a sewage works, and 1 is blocked by a mass of vans and the same fence. Clearly there are historical failings to follow due procedure here – how a motorway be built across a path with nothing done for 20 years? How can you build Sherburn by-pass with no pavement, and allow the old road for pedestrians to lapse as a right of way and become a private road? How can it take 13 years and counting to progress a straightforward map modification? These are the headline issues, but there are more. To have a small area with such a high percentage of issues is terrible, is this representative of the whole county?


There is also a safety issue, which I have raised but failed to receive a single comment on – one of the blocked paths leaves users left walking for around 1 km down the unlit, unpaved, verge of the 60mph B1222 with the Bishop Dyke to one side which cannot be safe. There is clearly a viscous circle here, no one will use the paths because no one can, which means the council can justify that nothing is done, despite the masses of new houses being built nearby.


There needs to be greater transparency - a clear process flow chart to allow users to understand what will happen when paths are blocked and/or feedback is sent to the councils, including target timescales for responses, and actions.

I fully understand that NYCC is responsible for a lot of footpaths, but why can’t the third parties who have blocked these paths be instructed to reinstate the rights of way at their own time and cost, with a deadline to do so?


I had the naïve hope the council would welcome feedback and act on it. I would have been more than satisfied if I had a single email, or a telephone call that proved somebody cared for the right of public access and was willing to discuss the issues properly and in detail. For example, I was promised in July a case officer would make a site visit to one path. Has that happened? I have no idea.


Nobody has bothered to update me. Nobody bothered to tell me when Network Rail finally undertook the correct process to close the foot crossing in September. I even got my MP involved, to try and kick start of some kind of action and the answers were the same vague ones, which also suggested my queries had been answered, misleadingly.


Most telling is that there has not even been a hint of an apology that I cannot access the obstructed rights of way. I was amazed to read in the minutes of the last forum the council considers that having 10% of the rights of way obstructed is a success. If this 10% were the road network, there would be uproar, yet we are meant to be in a climate emergency?  How any of this fits with the councils vision that Every adult has a longer, healthier and independent life I have little idea.


It would be very easy for myself and others to back down in the face of the continual and repeated stonewalling, for that is what it is, of these issues from the council. I am sure many others have.  But I simply want to be able to exercise my legal right to follow a right of way in my local area. Given Covid this is more important than ever. Why should I not be allowed to do this?’


In response, Ian Kelly - Countryside Access Manager, apologised that Mr Foster’s experience of the public rights of way in his area had not met his expectations.  He noted that the numerous issues on the network reported by Mr Foster had been logged on CAMS (Countryside Access Management System) and were being actioned by the Countryside Access Service.


He noted the Council had the biggest network of rights of way in the country and received a large number of requests every year.  He also noted the Countryside Access Service did not have the capacity to deal with them all immediately and therefore had to implement a prioritisation system to deal with them, which took account of the priority of the route, and any associated risks and impact on users.


Ian Kelly also confirmed that Mr Foster’s concerns had been escalated through the Council’s formal complaints system, and that it had been concluded that the service was dealing with the issues he reported appropriately, using the prioritisation system in place.  He noted that Mr Foster had been advised that he could choose to refer the matter to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman if he so wished. 


Finally, Ian Kelly acknowledged that Mr Foster’s statement did raise supplementary points concerning customer feedback.  He agreed it was an area where there was scope for improvement and therefore confirmed Mr Foster’s comments had been noted.