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High Court rules that footpaths can be diverted

wantspacegotspace.co.uk - High Court rules that footpaths can be divertedLandowners will find it easier to move public footpaths in future, according to Michael Orlik, a consultant with Lodders Solicitors in Stratford-upon-Avon.

His comments follow a recent High Court case, Ramblers’ Association v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and others, in which it was ruled that a landowner’s awareness of the existence of a public footpath when they bought the property was not relevant to their application for a diversion order.  

Section 119 of the Highways Act 1980 lays down the law on diverting the line of a footpath or bridleway. It involves a two stage process: an order must first be made by the local highway authority and then confirmed by the Secretary of State (or local highway authority if the order is unopposed).

In this case, the landowners bought a mill in the knowledge that a public footpath crossed the property.  

The order had been made by the local highway authority but, because it had been opposed and objections remained outstanding, it had been referred to the Secretary of State for confirmation.

He appointed an Inspector who held an inquiry at which the Ramblers’ Association argued that the order should not be confirmed because the landowners knew of the existence of the footpath when they bought the property and it was not legitimate for them to expect it to be diverted.

However the Inspector found that the landowners’ knowledge was irrelevant and confirmed the order. This decision was upheld by the High Court.

Mr Orlik, one of the UK’s leading authorities on the law of highways and rights of way, said: “This is an important decision for landowners, and particularly developers, who may require a diversion order to enable them to use or develop their land to its full potential.  

“This case establishes that a landowner who acquires land knowing about the existence of a public footpath is not prevented from making an application for a diversion order because of that knowledge.”

Posted by The Editor (wantspacegotspace) on 15th March 2013

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