Forum Members considered a report presented by Penny Noake, NYCC Definitive Map officer. The report provided an overview of the proposed changes to the system of prioritising applications for Definitive Map Modification Orders (DMMOs) to address the backlog of applications that are made to either request new routes be added to the definitive map i.e. those not already recorded as public rights of way, or for changing the particulars of a route already recorded, or for the deletion of a route where somebody feels the route should never have been recorded in the first place.
It was confirmed:
· There was a reasonable sized backlog, similar to other equally sized counties, but with an increase in applications in the lead up to the cut off date for 2026;
· Local Authorities were still awaiting the regulations from the De-regulation Act;
· A basic prioritisation system had been in place since 2003, which resulted in many applications being equally scored;
· The LAF was previously consulted on some modifications to the system, which introduced some further prioritisation options e.g. the route’s benefits to the community;
· One of the flaws of the system was that those routes that had low points were left continually sitting at the bottom of the list, and it was unlikely they would ever get dealt with, which was deemed unfair;
· The quality of the newer applications being submitted was exacerbating the problem;
· A review of other Authorities prioritisation methods was undertaken and it was noted that a good number of those were dealing with the oldest submission first;
· Forum members’ views on the proposals were being sought ahead of a formal consultation with applicants. The findings from both would inform the recommendations arising for formal approval;
Forum members considered the proposals in the report and agreed going in date order was the best way forward, with the proviso that for those seeking modification to an existing PROW, where there was any form of health and safety risk, that application be prioritised. It was also suggested that an indication of the time it would take to respond to the application should be given, but Penny Noake explained why it would be difficult to predict this with any degree of accuracy.
The issue of the lack of data/research submitted with the older applications on the system was noted. It was recognised there was a danger that on that basis those applications would be dismissed and it was suggested that those applicants be informed that their applications would benefit from some further supporting data to strengthen the application. It was also suggested that applicants would benefit from advice on what type of evidence to provide that would carry the most weight in support of their application.
The limited resources available to deal with the applications was raised, and it was confirmed that one additional Principal Definitive Map Officer had recently been recruited to help drive the work forward. Also that more staff resource was now available as a result of the completion of other definitive map work.
It was also confirmed that last year the number of NYCC had 150 outstanding applications, ten of which were 20 years old or more (increasing the Authority’s risk of challenge), nine appeals waiting to go the Secretary of State, and seven already with them.
The use of volunteers to support the work of the Definitive Map team was raised, and Ian Kelly confirmed 100 volunteers were currently on the books and work was underway to look at how to broaden their remit. Also, that a Volunteer Co-ordinator would be joining the team soon.
The Chair requested an update on the make-up of the team and the Forum gave its formal support to the re-prioritisation of applications based on submission date.