The new regulations due out now give Ramblers the power to force the ‘Order Making Authority‘ (that is who you apply) to process the claim quickly. The days of a claim sitting unprocessed for 10 or 20 years will be gone. So now is the time to get to work on filling the gaps in the Right of Way network.
The best start place is the excellent guide to evidence on the IPROW website http://www.iprow.co.uk/gpg/index.php/Historical_Evidence
This explains all the types of valid evidence and lists web sources for this information.
You need to do 2 things in making a claim
1. Show the way existed – Need to show there was one consistent line for a significant number of years.
2. Show that the public had the right to use the route. This doesn’t mean that the landowner had to give their permission, it is only necessary to show that that public use was so open that the landowner must have known about and accepted the use.
Essential equipment – time & patience, a camera to record documentary evidence and notebook and this is essential, access to a computer to check records on line and prepare your submission.
Start by finding possible candidate routes
Access 19th OS Maps online at the National Library of Scotland(NLS) – you can save these for later reference and they have a brilliant tool that lets you move the cursor on an OS 6”to mile map and see the curser on a Google satellite image on the right so you can plot the lost route on a modern map- very useful when all the features have changed. Footpaths shown on these maps are not necessarily public ones because the maps carry a disclaimer about rights of way. It does give you a starting point.
Search for missing roads on old (antique) County maps and local maps online – don’t ignore the maps for sale online. Gain there is no guarantee these roads are public but you can see where they were and start looking for evidence.
If you find a candidate decide if the route would enhance the network – if it doesn’t put it to one side and concentrate on the ones that bring the biggest improvement and would be most useful. Do an area with a number of routes close together because whilst researching one path, evidence for another can turn up.
Identify possible records
Then use the National Archives database to search for relevant documents. Don’t just put one search term in - think of different ways of asking the same question. Start by looking for maps, then Quarter Sessions Court Records, and work you way through the IPROW list for the place, parish or Estate, e.g ‘Rufford maps’. The National Archives database also covers the County Archives/Record Offices, but if it references a University Collection you will need to search those separately. Also be aware that many Estate papers are in collections in a different part of the country, it depends where the main seat of the Estate was. The National Archive website helps hugely with this. Estate papers can be brilliant – my best two ‘lost way’ claims have Estate maps with the label ‘public road’ on the claimed routes.
Local studies sections of libraries in the vicinity should be checked for old walking or cycling guides – how did the experts who wrote these regard the route?
Going to the Archives
Once you have a list of documents to look at contact the archives and tell them you are coming – they will often let you pre-order documents once you have a readers card – details on how to get on will be on the archive website.
Documentary evidence needs carefully photographing. Clear images are needed of the whole page, the part of the page you want, supporting pages, the plate showing the author and date, and for maps the key. Photograph everything to save you having to go back. In the excitement of finding evidence don’t forget to photograph the catalogue reference code to identify what the piece of evidence is. It is really annoying to get home only to realise that you can’t identify what is on the photos. Archives don’t usually allow use of a flash so look for a well-lit spot and check clarity as you take the photos.
Also sometimes, you need to look for what is not there and record it is not there.
Preparing your evidence
Under the new regulations it will be essential to present your evidence as a proper report, which will need:-
1.Intoduction – show the claim on a map with key points identified and labelled, pictures of the route at key points, local history, what you what to achieve, i.e a route or designation change.
2. The Evidence Index identifying every piece of evidence, e.g
A5a 1835 Sanderson map of the route, A5b, 1835 Sanderson map key, A5c 1835 Sanderson Plate.
Group the evidence into types, A Public maps, B OS maps, C Railway Plans, D Estate Plans etc.
If you have an archive reference code for a piece of evidence add this.
3. The Evidence – copies in order each with its identification code and title.
4. Your Statement of Case – addressing the “You need to do 2 things” above.
Have you remembered to present the legal case for there being a right of way and secondly where that right of way is.
The most important part comes next.
Don’t make the claim until you have had a good think about whether there is enough evidence and whether you have presented it in a clear and unambiguous way. Some claims will succeed with just a few pages of evidence because the evidence has the necessary legal weight. Other claims can fail despite large amounts of evidence because a key legal necessity has been ignored. Just because a way is shown on a map doesn’t mean it is a Public Right of Way. Use the IPROW Guide to go through your evidence with a critical eye. If in doubt check PINS decisions(Planning Inspectorate), which are available online, for similar cases. If you can’t improve the evidence make the claim and let the system decide the outcome.
Take the claim in and ask for a receipt so you can prove when it was handed over – you may have to go to the Magistrates Court to get an order to process the claim.
Check any tricky legal points with Ramblers Central Office experts (Eugene Suggett). We have a case where it is claimed that the Inclosure Award for a neighbouring parish extinguished an ancient road. The Inclosure Award does state that their part of the road was extinguished, but also states that the Award only applies to that parish. (Example of showing something isn’t there – legal permission to extinguish the road in a neighbouring parish)
Finally be flexible about what you want and try and work with the landowners