Ashley Bowes has successfully represented the British Horse Society in a two-week long public inquiry, which saw the Secretary of State refuse to downgrade a Restricted Byway running between Cade Street and Warbleton in East Sussex to footpath status.
The effect of which would have seen horse-riders ousted from the lengthy route. The decision was the culmination of an eleven-year campaign by Applicant, David Hobden to downgrade the route.
The route was originally recorded as a Road Used as Public Path (“RUPP”) in 1953. In 2002, the Applicant applied to downgrade the entire route to a footpath under s.53(2)(b) Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The eventual public inquiry, held across two weeks in June and October 2013, addressed a number of interesting points.
First, the Inspector confirmed that the Winchester line of cases, which required strict compliance with the requirements of Schedule 14 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for the purposes of s.67 Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, did not apply to ss.47 and 48 Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Rather, he held that a flexible approach was appropriate in order to achieve fairness for the Applicant.
Second, the Inspector dismissed the Applicant’s suggestion that the statutory presumption of regularity of the Definitive Map & Statement did not apply in the case of historic RUPPs.
Finally, the Inspector noted the significant evidential challenges in tackling the accuracy of decisions taken in the early 1950s which, in some instances, he held were ‘incapable of resolution’.
Order Reference FPS/G1440/7/29 (Inspector Peter Millman).