The Executive Director for Economic Development and Communities submitted a report which sought approval for the dedication of approximately 42 km of existing routes across Council owned land as Public Rights of Way.
This would formalise the legal position of the routes and would increase the legally recorded network from 38 to 80 km.
The report outlined that by formally recognising these legal rights it enabled the Council to protect both the public and the Councils rights as landowner and reduce the potential risk and cost to the Council in the future. Following advice from the Head of Democratic Services, this dedication needed to go through the formal Single Executive Member approval process.
The report outlined that Public Rights of Way were paths and tracks which anyone could use to cross privately or publicly held land and refer to the legal right that the public had to use a route. The term 'public right of way' was a common expression used for 'minor highways' such as footpaths and bridleways but in terms of the law and legislation they were both highways.
There are many existing surfaced paths, tracks, warn trod's and desire lines that the public use on a regular basis and have done for many years, that cross Council owned land. However these did not have the same legal protection as those recorded as public rights of way on the definitive map.
The proposal was to dedicate approximately 42km of the existing routes as Public Rights of Way (Footpaths/Bridleways) and to record them on the Definitive Map & Statement. These routes were shown on Plan 1 and provided access to areas such as Blue Bell beck, Marton West beck, Spencer beck, the River Tees and other publicly held land that currently provided access to the public at large. This general proposal was approved as part of the Rights of Way Infrastructure Plan 2014 - 2024 by the Executive Member for Regeneration on the 30th June 2014.
The report outlined that the Council had over the last few years received a number of claims for the recording of many of these routes by way of a Definitive Map Modification Order under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; several of which still awaited determination and many more that had never been claimed.
Several of the proposed routes cross Council land had been identified as a housing site.
The proposed line of the new access road which would run through the housing site and join Mandale Road would cross the beck and a couple of the proposed public rights of way. It was believed that these routes would be incorporated in any proposed crossing of the beck at this point and as such was unlikely to cause any problems.
The report outlined in further detail that there were three options available.
During discussion it was agreed that a notice / press release would be issued to the Evening Gazette.
That a notice be placed in the local newspaper; and
That the dedication of existing routes across council land as Public Rights of Way as outlined in the report be approved.
The decision was supported by the following reason:
To enable the legal process to be undertaken.