This article is from Signpost 45, Winter 2014
As reported in the previous edition of Signpost, the Society’s appeal to the Secretary of State against Lancashire Council’s refusal to make a Definitive Map Modification Order to recognise the section of this path behind the sea wall was granted. The Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State found that ‘There is a body of evidence which supports the view that the route is a long established public right of way on foot and is sufficient for a footpath to be alleged to subsist’. On the 30th September the matter came before the Council’s Regulatory Committee. The officers recommended that ‘the direction from the Secretary of State be followed and that the order should be promoted to confirmation’. This is important because it is normal practice for the Council to remain neutral in these circumstances i.e. where a refusal to make an order is overturned by the Secretary of State, so the applicant, the Society, would be responsible for presenting the case at a public inquiry should the order be opposed.
Since the original decision to refuse to make the order there had been a change in political control so there was a new chairman and only one of the members of the original committee was in attendance. The new chairman explained that she had visited the site and in view of the officer’s report it was unclear why the previous committee did not follow the recommendation to make the order requested by the Society. Councillor DeMolfetta, the councillor who was on the original committee, explained that they had followed the best advice and did not have the benefit of the inspector’s report. This is at the least disingenuous as the officer’s report had recommended that the order be made and the inspector’s report was not in existence at the time of the original decision, since the appeal had not taken place! However he did have the good grace to join with his fellow councillors in making a unanimous decision to make the order and support it to confirmation.
This is excellent news for the Society as it means we shall not have to face the considerable costs of employing lawyers to present the evidence should, as is almost certainly to be the case, the order is opposed by the owners of the properties next to the path. The next stage is for Lancashire Council to advertise the order. If it is opposed the matter is referred to the Planning Inspectorate to conduct a public inquiry. The Society will assist the Council in any way we can. Unfortunately there is no time limit for the Council to act, so it will be some time before this case is resolved and members of the walking public can again enjoy this wonderful path overlooking Morecambe Bay and will not have to struggle along the rocky foreshore below the sea wall.
Next: Bridge report
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