Date: Tue, 25 May 2010 05:38:15 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: Hamble Path Update
First of all thank you to all of you for your support for this campaign, and in particular to those who have completed User Evidence Forms for Hampshire County Council.
At the last count there were 187 forms submitted. This is more than for any other disputed path in Hampshire.
Over the last few months we have been in contact with councilors and police, started publicizing the dispute, campaigned for the removal of the “No Cycling” signs, researched the ownership of the land along the route, established the legal position as best we can, contacted landowners along the route with a view to getting voluntary agreement for cyclists to use the path, researched the history of the path, and started working with Hampshire County Council to resolve its status.
The attached poster sets out our current understanding of the legal position. It is not a criminal offence to cycle the path unless you are cycling with reckless abandonment. Anyone cycling the route should be aware that they may be committing a civil offence of trespass against the landowner unless they could show that cyclists have a right to cycle the path either under common law or under the principle of presumed dedication. We consider it unlikely that a landowner would attempt to prosecute anyone for trespass.
The story has been regularly covered by www.Locksheathpeople.co.uk
We have had some initial coverage in the Western Wards Gazette followed by a front page article in their online version.
There has been one article in the Echo.
We have had some film footage taken for possible follow up by local TV if the dispute escalates.
Thank you to all those that took part in the photo and film shoots down by the ferry
Initially the police were involved in discouraging people from cycling. Their involvement included putting up no cycling signs, meeting with local residents at the northern end of the path, carrying out surveys of the number of people cycling and speaking to cyclists.
After a lot of discussion and much correspondence with local police and the Chief Constable they have backed off completely. They have removed their inflammatory signs and have indicated that they will only get involved if people cycle dangerously.
Since their signs came down there seems to be less friction between walkers and cyclists.
Most councillors seem to be generally sympathetic apart from one who was strongly against cyclists using the route. Since the publicity there is more willingness to explore options for changing the recorded status of the path. We understand that council officers have been asked to look into establishing a voluntary dedication for part of the route.
We have been contacting landowners along the route and so far we know of only one who objects to cyclists using the path. Contrary to what was initially assumed most of the path is probably owned by the Crown and not Hampshire County Council.
It is worth noting that many of the adjoining properties along the northern end of the path have private rights to walk, and to take animals and vehicles along the route. This would include bicycles and indicates that the Council’s “No Cycling” signs were somewhat misleading.
Some interesting details have emerged especially regarding the northern end of the path. For example there was a spring near Brooklands and people used to come from Southampton in carts to collect water from it, just north of Brooklands farm there is an area which was used as a beach for the public to swim in the river, and we have heard that the path was made up to the current road by Fareham Borough Council. We are trying to ascertain if this is true and if it was at ratepayers cost.
“No Cycling” signs
The misleading and inflammatory Police signs have been removed.
A council sign at the northern end of the path has now been removed, leaving just the privately erected Brooklands Historic Park sign, which does incorporate the words No Cycling and a small symbol to that effect..
The council signs at the southern end of the path remain. This is absurd since the southern end forms part of the National Cycle Network and the County Council licenses the ferry to carry bikes. In the days before outboard engines when the ferry was a rowing boat, bikes used to be carried in the bow of the boat. The council maintains that until the recorded status of the path is changed they cannot do anything to indicate that they accept cycling.
Universal Boatyard have erected signs showing the route of the path over their land. They describe this as a footpath and have put up “No Horse riding” signs. If any of you do decide to cycle the route PLEASE show extra care when passing through the boatyard.
This would require agreement of all the landowners along the route and is the Council’s preferred option. Unfortunately, because of the probable objection of one particular landowner this unlikely to be successful. The council is unwilling to pursue voluntary dedication of part of the route unless there is a clear exit to a public highway. In many ways dedication of the path would be an ideal outcome and we are continuing to talk to the council to try and address their concerns.
Reclassification of the route as a Restricted Byway.
There are a number of ways of doing this. One option is redesignation under the principle of presumed dedication through continuous use for a period of at least 20 years prior to the use being called into question. This would almost certainly involve a public enquiry. The legislation seems heavily weighted in favour of landowners, which is one reason why CATS has taken a long time to decide to proceed with the application, but this should be submitted this week. The weight of evidence is a key factor and we urge you to complete evidence forms if you or your friends who have used the path have not already done so (see attached form).
Designation of the route as a Cycle Track (joint pedestrian and cyclist use).
This seemes an appropriate use of the legislation introduced in the 1980s. It is the Highway Authority who must make the application, private individuals cannot. Any objection (there would be at least one) has to be referred to the Secretary of State for a decision. It may be that the criteria for the decision would be more favourable than for Reclassification. Our requests to the County for them to investigate this option have so far led to no action from them.