Saturday, 24 September 2011

No new bridleway

You may recall that a Public Inquiry took place at The Kingsley Centre in July in connection with Maureen Comber's application for two new bridleways joining Cradle Lane with Headley Bridleway 54. The decision has now been published (you can read the full text here) and the order is not confirmed - in other words, the application has been refused and no new bridleways will be dedicated.

The application needed to show, on the balance of probabilities, that such a public right subsists or is reasonably alleged to subsist over the land in question. In other words, if the application succeeds it merely acknowledges and confirms an existing right. No "new" right is created.

Evidence for the claim largely consists of two threads: a 1787 survey map appearing to include the claimed route as part of an historic public road and witness statements asserting regular use "as of right" by the public over the required (Section 31 of the Highways Act 1980) period of 20 years upto that "right" being challenged in 1997.

The 1787 map evidence must be balanced against the fact that no subsequent maps or surveys support such a claim.

The witness evidence has several flaws: oral evidence failed to agree with the written evidence submitted with the claim but more importantly included evidence that the 20 years was interrupted both regularly by a scout camp and permanently by storm damage in 1990.

In short, the application failed to establish, on the balance of probabilities, that rights of way exist.

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