Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

Book Review

Jenny Allen and Rhoda Barnett, Trustees and CI&Os

This article is from Signpost 67, Spring 2021

A Practical guide to Planning Law and Rights of Way in National Parks, the Broads and AONBs by James Maurici QC, James Neill et al. Law Brief Publishing

The C&IC were invited to review this new book as a possible addition to their library. The book is intended as a reference guide for lawyers and non-lawyers who need to have a working knowledge of this niche area of law. It focuses on the legislative and policy decisions that protect important landscapes.  Divided into eight chapters, it has two chapters on rights of way & access rights. There is an interesting chapter on wildlife biodiversity.

Is this book relevant to the work that PNFS undertakes? Clearly, we do not have any Broads in our area, but we do have one National Park (Peak District National Park) and three Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (Forest of Bowland, Arnside and Silverdale, and Cannock Chase). The introductory chapter gives a useful, simple, clear potted history of how National Parks etc came into being and the current legislation that governs them. This includes a reference to relevant legislation and changes made, up to the current day. It describes the powers and duties of National Planning Authorities, their role in the planning system and national planning policies. There is a helpful overview with references to enable further study. We found the explanation of how National Parks came into being, with a purpose to provide opportunities for recreation, helpful, particularly for new C&IO’s. The description of the role of the National Park as a Planning Authority was also useful.

Following the theme of the first few chapters, the chapter on AONBs describes how they were created. It highlights the differences between AONBs and the establishment of National Parks. It sets out the role of Natural England to designate an area as an AONB. There is a useful description of the purposes of AONBs, and that they, unlike National Parks have no purpose to provide opportunities for recreation. There is a useful explanation of the criterion for becoming an AONB accompanied by a list of current AONB.

There is an excellent discussion of the National Planning and Policy Framework in chapter 4, with a particular focus on the major development test. This is a strong chapter with plenty of case law references. This is by far the best chapter and the passion the author of this chapter has for his subject shines through.

The chapters on access rights and public rights of way (PROW) are functional. There are useful descriptions of the characteristics and categories of a PROW including towpaths, long distance paths and coastal access. However more on this would have been valuable, particularly with work ongoing along the Lancashire coastline re this coastal network. The chapters describe how Rights of Way come into being, with a section on dedication, recording of RoW and modification orders. Further information is provided on who is liable for maintenance and protection of RoW, interference with public use, diversions, and extinguishments. The publisher describes these chapters as a ‘look at various rights of way…’. We agree, they really are a ‘look at’ - more depth and discussion about the impact of planning in NPs and AONBs on these rights would have been beneficial. It is disappointing that these are the weakest chapters of the book.

In summary this book is really intended for planners - officers and consultants - and possibly landowners and solicitors. We would not recommend it for PROW practitioners in local authorities or user groups. The PROW chapter is basic - anyone who works in PROW management would do much better to use the Blue Book*.

*Rights of Way A Guide to Law and Practice, 4th edition, Riddall and Trevelyan, Ramblers' Association and Open Spaces Society, 2007


Next: Closing Credits

Page title:Book Review
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