Joint Committee on the Draft Marine Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Byways and Bridleways Trust (DMB 52)

  1.1  The proposals would serve "Best Value" principles far better if the new trail were also to be available to equestrians and cyclists. At 4m wide, apart from the spreading room, the proposed trail is wider than many bridleways, and since gates are to be preferred to stiles, it will be passable. There will obviously be exceptions, pinch points where the trail has to be narrower for physical reasons, or involves steep steps, but there will be many stretches where multi-use is possible. We fully support the submission from the CTC, but would add two further justifications:

  1.2  Horse riders gained no additional access under the CROW Act and do not enjoy the large resources available for the promotion of cycle routes. They are increasingly endangered on the roads, yet riding is a very healthy exercise which can still be enjoyed by the elderly who find long walks difficult. Provision for riders should not depend on permissive agreements, which can so easily be withdrawn and are not always well publicised. We were delighted to see that climbers are deemed capable of taking responsibility for their own and other users' safety, and consider that riders of both horses and bicycles are equally capable of deciding where they can safely ride, without endangering themselves and others.

  1.3  It will be very difficult to prevent multi-use in practice and the Trust suggests that Police and Ranger services have far more important work to do than chasing ponies and cyclists off a broad trail where they are doing no harm.

  2.  The Trust warmly welcomes the new provision for 3rd party liability. The cost and fear of insurance proceedings does great harm to initiative, self reliance and ultimately to understanding and enjoyment of the countryside. We are concerned, however, that where existing rights of way form part of the coastal trail, they are to be "excepted land". This means, for instance, that where there is already a 2m wide public footpath, there will be two different regimes: the current liability on the old footpath and the new one on the extra two metres, which may lie on one or the other side or both, a sure recipe for expensive litigation if the rabbit hole which caused the sprained ankle straddles the invisible dividing line. We recommend that such existing routes be not treated as "excepted land" in this respect.

  3.  We note in explanatory papers from defra and Natural England that temporary diversion is expected to solve various difficulties. The process of legal diversion is cumbersome and expensive and we fear that resources of officer time and money will be used up on this to the detriment of other and more beneficial work on the trail and on rights of way in general. It might be possible to devise a simpler procedure for temporary diversions to be made by the managing authority, subject to stringent safeguards as to duration, frequency and suitability of the alternative, and the Trust recommends that stakeholders be consulted.

June 2008

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