SPC logoClerk's Briefing 2-14

WILDLIFE AND COUNTRYSIDE ACT 1981 - SECTION 53
CLAIMED PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY AT BREDE LANE, SEDLESCOMBE

1. Letter from East Sussex County Council Legal Department. Sedlescombe Parish Council has received through the post a letter from East Sussex County Council dated 04/02/14 with the information that a claim has been made under Section 53 of the Countryside Act 1981 that the public has used these routes as of right for 20 years without force, without secrecy and without permission. The guidance states that, in some circumstances, there may not be a requirement to show 20 years of use.

2. Evidence in support of the claim. On request, the Parish Council was provided with the evidence provided by Alan Olin of Oakhurst, Blacklands, Sedlescombe, in support of his claim for a public right of way to be added to the defintive map. This was in the form of 31 signed forms from local people mostly claiming they had used the path(s) themselves or had seen others using it. Twelve are current occupiers of Blacklands and a further two are past residents of Blacklands. Three come from Brede Lane other than Blacklands, one from Conqueror Terrace, four from East View Terrace, seven from Gorselands, one from Chapel Hill and one is a past resident of Hurst Lane. These people have lived in the village for varying lengths of time from 61 years to 9 months. The signed maps accompanying their attestations vary, with three different routes marked although, for some reason, the County Council has only chosen to advertise two of them:

  1. Footpath A below - breaking through the hedge into and crossing the kickabout area - 68%
  2. Footpath B below - one only who no longer lives here but lived here as a child
  3. As in A below but clipping the corner of the tarmac at the kickabout area (29%)

Two say they have never used the path. Most say they see others using the path regularly. Most admit there is no signage although two do think there is some signage. Most say the path has been maintained but are not sure by whom although a couple thought it might be the Parish Council. Most don't know whether the landowner is aware of the use but some think they must be; one said they must know as it's a public footpath.

All of the claimed use is on foot and the purposes vary:

  1. Dog walks
  2. Accessing sportsfield or park
  3. Short cut
  4. Safe and pretty way from Blacklands to the village avoiding crossing busy roads
  5. Exercise
  6. As a child to go birdnesting and to grandparents in The Green
  7. To get to the village from Brede Lane, East View Terrace or Gorselands
  8. As a child, to walk from Hurst Lane to meet friends at East View Terrace
  9. Recreation
  10. Accessing footpath network

3. Claimed Footpath A. The following map shows the claimed footpath A from Brede Lane to and through the hedge and across East View Terrace Kickabout Area to meet with Footpath 3.

Claimed footpath A

4. Claimed Footpath B. The following map shows the claimed footpath B from Brede Lane (same starting point as map A) to meet with Footpath 2b just to the west of East View Terrace Kickabout Area.

Claimed footpath B

5. Objections. The onus is on the landowner to show that they did not intend to dedicate the route as a public right of way.The letter gives 56 days i.e. by 02/04/14 for objections or comments and includes a questionnaire for completion by the owner/occupier of the land.

6. Clerk's comment. From the maps A and B above, it can be seen that Claimed Footpath A crosses land, through the hedge and across freehold land belonging to Sedlescombe Parish Council. This land is known locally as East View Terrace Kickabout Area.

Freehold. The Parish Council has owned the freehold of the Kickabout Area since 31/01/1996 i.e. 18 years. During that time, up to December 2013, the hedge between the Kickabout Area and the land to the north (i.e. the proposed development area at Street Farm) has been maintained by the Parish Council more recently on an annual basis and, for the majority of that time, it has been allowed to grow tall. In December 2013, it was cut down to about 4 foot in height.

Covenants. When the Parish Council was given the land by Mr John Keeling in 1996, the following covenants were attached:

  1. "Within three months of the date of this Transfer to erect and forever to maintain repair and renew a chain link fence 1.8 metres in height between points marked A B C and D on the Plan.
  2. To maintain and keep properly cut the existing hedge shown on the Plan.
  3. Not to use the Property or any part thereof other than as a play area for children.
  4. Not to fell or destroy any trees now standing on the Property without the consent of the Transferor."

Chainlink around the Kickabout apart from the part shown as A to D on the Plan. The chainlink fence between C and D was behind the hedge and currently needs repair. The remainder of the fence has been maintained. The Plan attached to the Transfer of land does not show any breaks in the fence between C and D which would have been there if there had been a public right of way through the hedge and across the land in question. There is no mention of a public right of way in the Deed of Transfer from John Arthur Bernard Keeling to the Parish Council.

Local Knowledge. As a local resident I have known the public rights of way in Sedlescombe for 45 years, 39 of these as Parish Clerk with a particular interest in rights of way. For 28 of the 39 years, my husband and myself led monthly parish council footpath walks for local residents and knew where every footpath and bridleway in the parish was situated. I worked closely with East Sussex County Council in sorting out queries from residents and arising from our walks. In 1994, to celebrate the Sedlescombe Parish Council's centenary, we led a weekend of walks covering every footpath and bridleway in the parish of Sedlescombe. In 2002, I was instrumental in working with East Sussex County Council to produce the coloured "Walks around Sedlescombe" leaflet that is still on sale in the Village.

Highways Act 1980 S.31(6) On 27/05/2011, I as Clerk to Sedlescombe Parish Council, made a statutory declaration relating to the above-mentioned land at East View Terrace at Meeneer Shuttleworth Solicitors in Grand Parade, St Leonards on Sea that "No ways over the land have been dedicated as highways and at the present time Sedlescombe Parish Council has no intention of dedicating public rights of way over its property".

During the 45 years since 1968 when I moved to Sedlescombe, I have never heard any suggestion that walkers are crossing the field along either of the claimed paths at Street Farm from Brede Lane to meet the footpath network to the south. I saw the "stiles" that appeared at either end of one of the paths for the first time in December 2013. No-one has ever contacted me as Clerk to the Parish Council asking that the Parish Council makes a request to East Sussex County Council that these paths should be added to the Definitive Map.

 

Pauline J Raymond
Clerk to Sedlescombe Parish Council
sedlescombe@freezone.co.uk

06/02/14