Patchetts Green Bridleways Trust
 PG: OBJECTS: CREATION: Public Path Creation Orders - s.26 Highways Act 1980

Section 26 of the Highways Act 1980 allows a local authority (that is, a district or county council) to make an order (known as a 'Public Path Creation Order') to create a footpath or bridleway over land in their area. If there are no objections, the local authority can confirm the Order themseves, so bringing the path into effect.

However, where objections have been made, the Order will need to be considered by an Inspector from the Planning Inspectorate. Depending on the number and nature of the objections, he may consider the Order after an exchange of written representations between the authority and the objectors, after holding a hearing, or after a public local inquiry.

Placeholder for Potters Bar path photograph
Photo: a path created under s.26 Highways Act 1980
 
In order to confirm the Order, the Inspector will have to be satisfied that the requirements of s.26 have been satisfied.
Riders need to help prove the requirements are met.
 
(a)"the extent to which the path or way would add to the convenience or enjoyment of a substantial section of the public, or to the convenience of persons resident in the area"
Extract from s.26 (1) Highways Act 1980
This requirement means that riders need to write to the local authority saying that they would use the path if it was created. For best effect, each letter should set out the journey that would be enabled by the creation of the path. This might be a journey that can now be undertaken that couldn't be before. Or it could be a journey made safer as a dangerous road could be avoided. The most important thing is that local people are saying why they really need this path. It will ALSO be necessary for as many of these riders as possible to attend the hearing or inquiry. One witness in person is worth several letters!

(b) "the effect which the creation of the path or way would have on the rights of persons interested in the land"
Extract from s.26 (1) Highways Act 1980
This requirement means that riders need to find out what the objections from any owners or occupiers of the land are. It will be necessary to work with the order making authority to argue against these objections. Evidence will be needed to back up any statements of opinion made.

(3A) "any material provision of a rights of way improvement plan prepared by any local highway authority whose area includes land over which the proposed footpath or bridleway would be created"
Extract from s.26 (3A) Highways Act 1980
This requirement means that riders need to persuade the relevant council to put useful words in its Rights of Way Improvement Plan, so that they can be cited when it comes to the confirmation of a creation order.
 
Organisations like the British Horse Society can often help with the second requirement, but only local riders can provide the evidence that they would use the path if it opened.

Local groups can help by bringing the need for this evidence to the attention of local riders.

Highways Act 1980, Section 26

26 (1) Where it appears to a local authority that there is a need for a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway over land in their area and they are satisfied that, having regard to-

(a) the extent to which the path or way would add to the convenience or enjoyment of a substantial section of the public, or to the convenience of persons resident in the area; and

(b) the effect which the creation of the path or way would have on the rights of persons interested in the land, account being taken of the provisions as to compensation contained in section 28 below

it is expedient that the path or way should be created, the authority may by order made by them and submitted to and confirmed by the Secretary of State, or confirmed by them as an unopposed order, create a footpath or bridleway over the land.

An order under this section is referred to in this Act as a 'public path creation order'; and for the purposes of this section 'local authority' has the same meaning as in section 25 above.

(3A) The considerations to which-
  (a) the Secretary of State is to have regard in determining whether or not to confirm or make a public path creation order, and
  (b) a local authority are to have regard in determining whether or not to confirm such an order as an unopposed order,
include any material provision of a rights of way improvement plan prepared by any local highway authority whose area includes land over which the proposed footpath or bridleway would be created.
[Section 3A was added by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.]

 
The Policy Framework
 
1. East of England Plan - the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) for the East of England

The introduction to the RSS on the East of England Regional Assemby web site says,

The East of England Plan will not be restricted to matters that can be implemented through the planning system or local transport plan process. It will also take account of a wide range of activites and programmes which have a bearing on land use including health, education, culture, economic development, skills and training, social inclusion, crime reduction and the impact of climate change.
It follows, therefore, that this document, which has been through extensive public consultation, is a material consideration in determining the Order.

In the draft deposit version of the RSS, Chapter 10, Policy C4 relates to sporting facilities (of which bridleways can be considered to be a part) and Policy C5 covers recreational and natural resources.

Policy C4: sporting facilities
In preparing plans, local planning authorities will liaise with Sport England and local community groups to determine the best locations for appropriate facilities.
In consultation with local community groups, they should identify needs and set out clear strategies for the provision of additional community sport and recreation facilities, as well as for the protection and enhancement of existing sporting facilities, following an extensive audit of existing recreational open spaces and sports facilities in the area, and a needs assessment of the type of sports facilities required.

Riders can be considered to form a community group, and so local authorities are instructed by the RSS to consult riders about their needs and to set out a strategy for implementing changes.

Policy C5: recreation and natural resources
Local authorities, in consultation with local community groups, will develop clear strategies for improving opportunities for informal recreation for both local residents and visitors, as well as making adequate provision for formal recreational activities which rely on the use of natural and manmade features/resources.
In particular, local development documents will include policies which:
  • seek to maximise the development of regional recreational assets such as major urban parks, regional and country parks, woodlands and community forests, trails, bridleways and cycleways, stretches of coastline or estuary, and canals and waterways that may attract visitors as well as meet local needs.
  • In the explanatory text, the RSS adds, at paragraph 10.31,

    Similarly, it is important that opportunities are taken to extend and improve this network of assets, particularly for routes and sites of strategic importance, in a way that does not conflict with sustainable development objectives.

    In Chapter 8, policy T12 relates to walking and cycling.

    Policy T12: walking and cycling
    Walking and cycling will be encouraged and provision for both will be improved. Strategic access to and within the Regional Interchange Centres (see policy T2) will integrate with pedestrian and cycle provision at the local level. Support will be given to the completion (by 2010) of the National Cycle Network in the region and linking it with local cycling networks to form continuous routes.
    Cyclists can use bridleways by virtue of section 30 of the Countryside Act 1968, and so any new bridleway for horses comes with the added benefit of adding to the cycle network.
    Countryside Act 1968
    30 (1) Any member of the public shall have, as a right of way, the right to ride a bicycle, not being a mechanically propelled vehicle, on any bridleway, but in exercising that right, cyclists shall give way to pedestrians and persons on horseback.
    2. South East Plan - the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) for the South East of England
    Policy C4: Countryside Access and Rights of Way Management
    Local authorities, through Rights of Way Improvement Plans and other measures, should encourage access to the countryside, taking full advantage of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, particularly by:
    i. Maintaining, enhancing and promoting the Public Rights of Way system, and permissive and longer distance routes, to facilitate access within, to and from the countryside for visitors and all members of the local community
    ii. Identifying opportunities and planning for routes within and between settlements, seeking to reduce car use for shorter journeys
    iii. Where possible, making new routes multi-functional to allow pedestrians, horses and cyclists to use them.
    At next revision, we hope to strengthen the East of England's regional Spatial Strategy to be as goos as the South East's in this respect.
    DEFRA's Strategy for the Horse Industry in England and Wales

    The Ministerial foreword to this document says,

    Government recognise the major contribution which the horse industry makes to the economy, and the important role that horses play in the lives of so many people in both the cities and rural areas across England and Wales. Moreover, Government shares with the British Horse Industry Confederation a strong conviction that the industry has the potential to develop further and to contribute even more. This strategy is aimed at unlocking that potential.
    Aim 5 of the Strategy is to "Increase access to off-road riding and carriage driving". Para 5.3 says,
    5.3 The Government and the British Horse Industry Confederation (BHIC) agree that the strategic objectives should be:
  • ensuring a joined up and well-maintained network of equestrian public rights of way;
  • increasing provision of other off-road equestrian routes and of areas with equestrian open access;
  • continuing safety education for motorists, riders and carriage drivers; and
  • ensuring urban and suburban riding and carriage driving are promoted and improved as well as rural riding and carriage driving.
  • So there is Government approval for the joining up of paths to make a network of equestrian public rights of way.
    Rights of Way Improvement Plans

    Section 60 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 provides that every local highway authority (outside inner London) shall prepare a Rights of Way Improvement Plan. This has to be taken into account when considering the confirmation of a Public Path Creation Order (s.(3A) Highways Act 1980, inserted by Schedule 6 para 1 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000).

    The relevant ROWIP for the area of the proposed path must be consulted in order to see whether it assists in creating the path sought.

    Example: Cambridgeshire