To consider the attached application.
Cllr Jon Andrews withdrew from the meeting for this item.
The Committee received a report which considered representations received to the Dorset Council (Part of Footpath 6, Gussage St Michael at Ryalls) Public Path Diversion Order 2020, whether or not to submit it to the Secretary of State for confirmation and the stance that the Council should take if submitted.
The Senior Definitive Map Technical Officer explained that as objections had been received the Order the Council could not confirm, the Order itself and had to come before the Committee. A presentation was given to members showing the current and the proposed new route of the Path. 16 objections to the Order had been received. The majority of the objectors felt there would be a negative impact on the enjoyment of the Path. Those in support of the Path felt the new proposed route was a more enjoyable and accessible route. Members would need to decide if the application should be submitted to the Secretary of State, either supporting the Order or taking a neutral stance. The Senior Solicitor explained to members the reason for the Council taking a neutral stance instead of supporting the Order would mean the Council would not take an active part in any Public Inquiry that may arise and therefore reduce the burden of resources on the Council.
A number of written submissions in support and one objection of the proposal and a statement by the applicant were read out at the meeting and are attached to these minutes.
The Senior Definitive Map Technical Officer felt that the points raised by members of the public had all been covered in the report. There were a couple of suggestions that the Path was being altered to go over the packhorse bridge which was not the case as the current route already ran over it. The safety of the bridge was mentioned in some statements and paragraphs 5.5 and 5.6 in the report clarified that the accessibility of the structure should be balanced against the enjoyment that it brings to those who have objected to the Order. The use and availability of the current footpath was also raised in some statements which was dealt with in paragraphs 4.22 to 4.33 of the report which stressed that the use of the current footpath was not a pre-requisite for diverting a path and any obstructions should be disregarded. The issue regarding incorrect search information being provided to the applicant by East Dorset District Council when he bought the property was dealt with in the report at paragraphs 6.1 to 6.4 which stated that these circumstances could not be taken into account.
Members comments and questions
Cllr Taylor sought clarification on the view being maintained with the path going past the packhorse bridge. The Senior Definitive Map Technical Officer advised that it was not possible to protect the view but those in support of the Order preferred to see the packhorse bridge from the new path whilst those opposing the Order preferred to walk over it on the definitive route, but if in the future the landowner wanted to put in a hedge or something to obscure the bridge the Council could not do anything about that.
Cllr Les Fry asked if there was any compromise on the routes of the 2 paths. The Officer advised that with a diversion order there was no scope to recommend that a permitted path be created and conditions could not be put in place. The current position was that this was a legal Order that had been made and that was what had to be worked with. The Secretary of State would review the Order and consider whether to confirm or not should members decide this course of action. Following a question about responsibility for any injury on the bridge, the officer advised that it would be either the Council or the landowner. Accessibility was more of a secondary issue.
Cllr Bill Pipe queried that if Dorset County Council had agreed this Order 3 years ago, why does it still not stand. The Officer advised that Order making was a 2 part process, and the Council is unable to confirm an Order when there are objections. The delay had been due to a backlog of Orders. Cllr pipe felt that the new route protected the privacy of the landowner.
Cllr Belinda Ridout advised that she was aware that there would be some impact on the public but felt that the Order should be submitted to the Secretary of State on a neutral stance.
Cllr Cook felt that what was being proposed was a safe and sensible solution and hoped that property owners in the future would have regard for looking at historic monuments.
Proposed: Cllr Ridout
Seconded: Cllr Fry
The Order be submitted to the Secretary of State for determination; and
The Council take a neutral stance in the proceedings.
Reasons for Decision
As there have been objections to the Order Dorset Council cannot confirm it itself but may submit it to the Secretary of State for an Inspector to be appointed to consider confirmation; and
The representations received to the Order challenge its compliance with the legal tests for the confirmation of a diversion order under the Highways Act. If the Council takes a neutral stance in the matter, the burden on the resources of the Council is substantially reduced and the matter could be progressed more swiftly.