The Committee is asked to decide whether it considers, on the evidence presented, that there subsists a historic right of way from Chertsey Lane to the River Thames at this location and therefore whether a Map Modification Order should be made. Annex B of the report outlines the key legal considerations for making a decision.
The Local Committee agreed that:
i) public footpath rights were not recognised over A-B on Drg.No. 3/1/88/H28 and they did not approve the application for a MMO under sections 53 and 57 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to modify the Definitive Map and Statement by the addition of a footpath, to be known as Footpath No.93 (Egham), due to insufficient evidence to grant the application;
ii) an MMO should not be made and advertised to implement such changes.
The reason for the decision was that there was insufficient evidence to give rise to a presumption that a public footpath subsists or is reasonably alleged to subsist over land in the area to which the map relates.
The Countryside Access Officer, Mr Daniel Williams, introduced the report which outlined a request to approve a Map Modification Order for the location on Chertsey Lane in the borough of Runnymede. He noted that a map of 1804 was the first to show access to the Thames from the Lane at this point on the bank, and that the Thames Conservancy minutes in Annex C made clear that they regarded a public access to the riverbank as existing. He explained that there was no single piece of evidence demonstrating a right of way, but that the collective weight of the evidence gathered was sufficient to grant an order. He also noted that the relevant legislation did not admit consideration of safety or security issues, therefore the Committee should base its decision entirely on the evidence of a right of way having existed, referring them to the legal guidance in Annex B.
Mr Corney, an objector to the making of the Order and resident owner of 119A Chertsey Lane, spoke for his allotted time on the matter and made the following points:
· When he moved to the property in 1996 the land to the side was open access and was plagued by anti-social behaviour including fly tipping and drug taking
· In 1999 Surrey County Council granted a garden licence to Mr Corney, who then cleared the area and fenced it for use as a lawn;
· The documentary evidence presented by the officer dated from before the period when the nearby Truss’s Island park (25metres away) was established, with its landing stages and slipway;
· He contended that Ferry Avenue, on the opposite side of Chertsey Lane, led more directly to the Island than to the piece of land in question and that it was uncertain from the evidence as to where the public access existed.
Several members of the Committee spoke, both in favour of the recommendation, and against. Several members raised concerns that when reading the various sections of analysis in the report, the phrases that appeared several times such as “no conclusions can be drawn” and “it is reasonable to infer” indicated uncertainty. Members felt that they did not have definitive evidence to support making an MMO.
It was noted that when Mr Corney had attempted to clarify with Surrey County Council the position with a right of way, he was given to understand that no public rights were acquired.
Mr Williams confirmed that he had consulted Runnymede Borough Council, (which had indicated that they had no evidence which would be useful) but not Spelthorne Borough Council on the opposite bank of the river, or any group in Thorpe. He also confirmed that if an Order was agreed, advertised and made, the Countryside team would share management of the space with the Property team at Surrey County Council. Mr Williams summed up by reminding the Committee of the Test they should apply, as laid out in 9.3 of the report:
“Is it reasonable to allege that a right ... view the full minutes text for item 128