You may ask what does anti-social behavior, crime and policing have to do with footpaths and rights of way. It all goes back to the use of Gating orders in the last 10 years or so. Gating orders have been used to temporarily close a footpath when there was anti-social behavior on the path which inconvenienced other path users or people living near the path. These Gating orders have to be renewed annually. Now the government has sought to "improve" on Gating orders by use of Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) under the new Anti-social behavior, Crime and Policing Act 2014. However, this new Act leaves much to be desired.
On 7 November 2014 The Ramblers posted this article on its website -
'On 20 October new laws, which see the end of Gating Orders and their replacement with Public Space Protection Orders, came into operation in England and Wales. These provisions are part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
We had hoped that the reform of anti-social behaviour laws would be an opportunity to seek improvements to Gating Order procedures so that local communities and walkers could have more influence on the making of orders. We were also worried because the new Public Space Protection Orders go much further than Gating Orders - they can be applied to any public space, and also because it will be a criminal offence to fail to comply with the terms of such an order. We talked to the government and to MPs and Peers about our concerns.
As a result, the Bill was amended as it made its way through Parliament. In particular, the guidance for local councils on using these new powers is now statutory, and there is additional guidance for local authorities in an Information Note which discusses the rights of way and open space issues in more detail.
We’ve prepared a guidance note on dealing with Public Space Protection Orders which can be downloaded here. It’s very important that we monitor the use which is being made of these new orders so please do send us the information requested in the guidance notes. If these orders are used to close routes which are used by people going about their everyday business then we need to be able to tell the Home Office what is happening.'
Regarding consultation procedures before making a PSPO the Act states -
"Where an authority is
considering an order on [registered common land, a registered town or village
green or open access land], the council should consider discussing this with
relevant forums and user groups (e.g. Local Access Forums, Ramblers or the
British Horse Society) depending on the type of provision that is contemplated
in the order.”
Where an order is proposed for a right of way the advice is even vaguer:
“Alternatively, where appropriate, councils may decide to hold public meetings
and discuss issues with regional or national bodies (such as the Local Access
Forum) to gather views.” Fortunately Ramblers and OSS were able to have
some influence to the content of the Information Note, and whilst this is not
statutory, it suggests that a local authority which is proposing to make a
PSPO on a right of way should consult all of those organisations which are
prescribed to receive notice of public path orders made under the Highways
Act and the Town and Country Planning Act".
This should mean that Ramblers volunteers and others will be consulted but nowhere does the Act make this compulsory.
How can I make representations about a proposed order?
- When you first become aware of a proposal to make a PSPO which will restrict public access to any highway or area of open space which is of valueto the walking public, then you should ask the council what evidence it has to show that the grounds are being met.
- Any representations which you make to a proposed order should demonstrate
that this evidence is unsound (if indeed it is), and the adverse effects it will
have on other persons in the locality and any drawbacks to the alternative
route suggested . It is obviously in respect of these
last two points that you have scope to make the case for the retention of the
path or land on the grounds of its use by, and value to, the public.
- Formal notice of the making of an order
Unless you have been consulted, the first time you may
learn about a PSPO is when it is published on the order-making authority’s
website, or a notice erected on or adjacent to the public place to which the
order relates. Although representations at this stage will be too late to prevent
the order from being made you let the authority know if you have concerns
about its effect on the walking public. Don’t forget that order can be varied or
revoked at any time.
- Appeal against the making of an order
Because Ramblers will not receive automatic notification of the making of PSPOs, it
would be very helpful to us in assessing and monitoring the use which is
being made of these new provisions if you could provide us with the details of
any PSPOs which are used to close definitive rights of way, and other routes
in regular use by the public, or any open spaces.
Please can you send the following details to Emily Shaw
? Name of authority
? Location of path or open space
? Detail of path or open space
? Nature of restriction being imposed
? Date of commencement
? Whether or not you were consulted before the order was made
? If you were consulted, whether or not you objected, and your grounds
for doing so
We are considering how we can encourage local authorities to consult us
about PSPOs, and we will let you know what we decide to do.
12. Problems with PSPOs
If you have any problems with PSPOs, or any queries about their operation,
Version 1: November 2014