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Agenda item

Public Footpath No. 39 Evenwood and Barony Parish - Joint Report of Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services and Head of Legal and Democratic Services


The Committee considered a report of the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services to consider an application to divert Public Footpath No. 39 Evenwood and Barony (for report see file of Minutes).


Prior to consideration of the matter, the Access and Rights of Way Team Leader informed the Committee that the representative from the Open Spaces Society was unable to attend the meeting due to ill health but wished to maintain the objection on behalf of the organisation.


The Committee had viewed the site prior to the meeting and were provided with the background to the application which had been submitted by the owner of High Toft Hill farm. The application sought to divert Public Footpath No. 39 away from farm buildings and farmyard areas. The owner had plans to construct new agricultural sheds and wished to ensure that a safe and long-term route for the public was provided whilst minimising any potential conflicts between the public and farm machinery and animals.


The effect of the proposal would move Footpath 39 to a more southerly route, following a field edge from the eastern end of the path round to its junction with Public Footpath no. 38 to the west of the farm. An additional stile would be provided to enable alternative access to and from the footpath. The relevant legal framework (Section 119 of the Highways Act 1980) was outlined to the Committee.


The Committee were informed that the ends of the diverted footpath were on the same highway, and it was argued that there would be no real loss of convenience for pedestrians. Whilst the diverted route would be longer and involve some loss and gain of altitude, these were not significant in the context of a path used for recreational countryside walking. The avoidance of potential conflict and confusion for users in the proximity of a working farmyard could also be seen as adding to the convenience of walkers. The provision of an access point onto the diverted path adjacent to the road junction would help to balance any inconvenience caused by the extra distance.


The diversion would also assist with the agricultural running of the farm and would be expedient in relation to the use of the land. The new stile would be constructed in accordance with British Standards.


The Access and Rights of Way Team Leader then summarised the objections made by the Open Spaces Society, which were detailed in Section 4.0 of the report as follows;


·         the diversion of Footpath No. 39 was circuitous and inconvenient for the public;

·         excessive in relation to the area of concentrated agricultural activity;

·         a diversion should be sought under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 in respect of any planned new building;

·         the agricultural need for the diversion had not been clearly made;

·         the new path might be fenced off and become a narrow corridor; and

·         there was no inconvenience to the public in walking close to stock sheds and a working farmyard.


The Access and Rights of Way Team Leader informed the Committee that correspondence with the objector provided by way of Document D to the report sought to address the matters raised. However, in terms of an overall response to objector, it could be commented that the additional distance resulting from the diversion was not felt to be significant in the context of a recreational walk in the countryside. The diversion would add approximately 190 metres to the length of Footpath No. 39. Valid agricultural reasons had been proposed to move the footpath away from the area of existing and proposed sheds, given the expanding farming operations planned.


Whilst it was accepted that the applicant could apply under s.257 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 for a diversion around the proposed new shed, and repeat the exercise for each subsequent new building as and when they came forward. It was felt that this would result in a less acceptable solution given the potential confusion for the public and a route that made a series of right-angled turns to get round the buildings, whilst still being in close proximity to vehicle and animal activity.


The Committee then heard from the applicant who explained that they lived on the site, comprising around 600 acres of farming land. Some of the land was utilised by the owner for their farming operation and other parts of the land were let. A significant number of sheep were present on the farm. The owner referred to the seasonal lambing operation and the shed observed by the Committee during the site visit. The owner explained that whilst the shed was of some size, it was not large enough for the lambing operation. Lambing took place between January and May. The owner had incurred significant losses last winter when many lambs perished during the winter. The construction of an additional agricultural building would provide the required amount of space, connect to the existing buildings and avoid unnecessary journeys with flocks outside during inclement weather.


The owner made it clear that they had no objections to use of the footpaths and the application had been submitted for the benefit of walkers, the owners and the absolute need for accessibility. The owner confirmed that they had no objection to install a stile, although it would mean that a section of established hedgerow would be lost.


Councillor H Smith, one of the local members informed the Committee that she was in favour of the proposed diversion which appeared sensible and pragmatic. Councillor Smith agreed with the assessment made by the County Council’s Public Rights of Way Team.


Councillor J Shuttleworth explained that the modern day farming operation and the diversion would not stop or deter any enjoyment for people walking the footpaths in the area and Moved the recommendation detailed in the report.


Councillor J Turnbull agreed with the comments made by Councillors H Smith and J Shuttleworth. Referring to the comments from Barnard Castle Ramblers regarding ‘a guarantee that the footpath would not be fenced in either now or at any time in the future’, Councillor Turnbull appreciated that the applicant had provided written confirmation which was included in the report and confirmed this with the applicant.


In response the applicant confirmed that they had no intention of fencing off the footpath both now or in the future as there was no desire to do so, essentially because the costs associated with fencing off the area would be prohibitive.


Councillor J Turnbull seconded the recommendation.



That the Committee agree to the making of a Diversion and Definitive Map and

Statement Modification Order under the provisions of Section 119 of the Highways Act 1980, and that the Order shall subsequently be either confirmed by the Council as an unopposed order or in the event of objection(s), referred to the Secretary of State for determination.


Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714