To be presented by Mrs C Hudson, Definitive Map & Land Charges Team Leader; Mr J Clark, Strategic Access Officer; and Ms J Taylor, Operations Team Leader.
Ms C Hudson, Mr J Clark and Ms J Taylor gave an overview of the report provided.
The following points and questions were raised in discussion:
- Section A, point 4 (Great & Little Kimble) it was clarified the only prohibition was Motorcycles.
Mr J Clark confirmed HS2 construction had formally started and included a number of footpath closures. An additional footpath link to South Heath from Great Missenden had recently been reopened having been previously been closed by HS2’s contractors. This was a particular problem for visitors unfamiliar with the area. New diversion signs had been agreed. Significant closures would be in place around Calvert and Steeple Claydon. The website would update both HS2 and East West Rail closures in detail. The Dorney Rowing Lake closure would reopen once fencing had been constructed. The two donate-a-Gate projects (Ramblers and Chiltern Society) had been on hold in the last 6-months as work parties were cancelled. All were now back up and running, but with limited capacity in some areas due to social distancing restrictions and vulnerable volunteers remaining shielded.
Ms J Taylor provided BVPI figures for 2019 and confirmed the ‘paths easy to use’ measure should have been 66%. Capital Project delays were experienced during lockdown as contractor’s stayed at home. Denham Bridleway 52 had been closed due to a bridge failure. A temporary structure was in place at Fawley alongside the Thames. Two additional clearance teams were employed over the summer of 2020 and most jobs were now complete. Officer inspections were suspended during lockdown, so some catch-up works were still being undertaken. Covid-19 resulted in a big increase in users reflected by an increase in landowner concerns reported. Around 50 complaints were received due to signs erected stating footpaths were closed (or similar). The volunteer crews from the Chiltern Society and Ramblers were also suspended due to Covid-19 which had reduced gate installations significantly.
- Mr Briggs noted he had seen a significant increase in walkers using his land during the lockdown period.
- Mr B Worrell asked about the impact of delegated powers? There was a discussion regarding the implications of officers now having delegated powers to determine applications which were once determined by the Rights Of Way (ROW) Committee. It was confirmed that the officers who provided the reports and research to the previous ROW Committee were the same officers who will be working towards determining the applications now, and therefore the forum could be assured that the same level of expertise and knowledge would be applied. Whilst this now created extra responsibility for the officers, it was hoped it would help to determine applications quicker due to no longer being restricted by Committee timetables. There was the option to refer some cases to the Strategic Sites Committee if the Service Director deemed it necessary, e.g. if the case was very controversial or the evidence was very finely balanced. Buckinghamshire Council was now in line with many other authorities whose officers had delegated powers and no ROW Committee.
- Mr A Clark asked if a series of accessible bridges were planned from Marlow to the main road in Fawley. Ms J Taylor confirmed that, as part of the rights of way improvement plan, there was a strategy to make bridges more accessible as each is replaced. With regard to Fawley, the aim was to increase the number of sleepers on each bridge so they were wider.
- Mr A Clark requested a progress report on ‘CAMS web’ software (the system by which the public registered network issues online and by which the council then managed those reports). An update would be shared at the next meeting, but to note: with the introduction of ‘CAMS web’ 18 months ago there had been a significant increase in the number of reports as the system made it easier for the public to report issues.
ACTION: Ms J Taylor
- An offline conversation would take place with Mr R Jennings regarding HS2 temporary closures for construction detailed on the Buckinghamshire Council website and whether users could be provided with automatic updates wherever there were changes.
ACTION: Mr J Clark