In late 2012 Queen Margaret's school erected a temporary gate on Main St, pending the installation of restored gates in Spring 2013.
Both the temporary gates and permanent replacement have access controls preventing the public from walking through the school.
Some residents believed that they had rights to walk through the school, and some had in the past been issued with passes to permit this. A number of opinions were held about whether or not a Public Right of Way (PROW) through the school exists. A group of residents circulated a letter and survey within the village, and subsequently a resident made an application to North Yorkshire County Council for a PROW to be instated through the school grounds, by means of a Definitive Map Modification Order (DMMO) under Section 53 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The purpose of Section 53 is not to create or extinguish public rights of way as such, but to correct errors and omissions by, for example, recording on the definitive map new ways which have come into existence by long use or which were missed off in the past.
North Yorkshire County Council have provided the guidance below on the process that they follow for such applications:
- Application investigation starts
- Initial consultation – all views are welcome but direct consultation with Parish & District Councils, County Councillor, applicant, land owners, user groups (e.g. Ramblers)
- Investigation undertaken in NYCC and other local archives
- Assessment of evidence – once the consultation and investigation is complete the evidence is assessed. If it passes the statutory test of “reasonably alleged to subsist” then move on to the next stage. If not the application is rejected and the applicant has a right of appeal to the Secretary of State.
- If objections are received at the initial consultation then a report is prepared and presented to the Planning and Regulatory Functions Sub Committee. If no objections are received the Order is made with no need to go to a committee.
- If the application is opposed the Planning and Regulatory Functions Sub Committee will discuss the report and hear from any interested party who registers to speak. They then decide whether NYCC will produce an Order. If they do see the next step, if they reject the case then the procedure set out in step 4.
- The order is made and then advertised on site, in a local paper, at a local public place like a library, and on the NYCC website for at least 42 days. Everyone involved in the initial consultation receives a copy of the order along with any interested parties we’ve collected on the way.
- Once the period from step 6 has expired the total of the evidence gathered is considered again to see whether it meets the higher test for confirmation of the Order (it is the confirmation that records the route on the Definitive Map). The higher test is does a public right of way exist “in the balance of probabilities”.
- If the evidence passes the test and there are no objections from the consultation in step 7 the Order is confirmed and the route is recorded on the Definitive Map.
- If the evidence does not pass the test and there are no objections the Order is sent to the Secretary Of State (SoS) along with a report stating why we believe the test is not met. The SoS will appoint an Inspector to assess the evidence and decide whether or not the Order can be confirmed.
- If there are objections then the case is prepared and sent to the SoS who will appoint an Inspector to hear the case. The case will be resolved by either written reports, a local hearing or a full local public inquiry. Public inquiry is the most usual way of resolving these cases. Once the Inquiry has happened the Inspector will decide whether or not to confirm the Order and write to everyone involved.
- If the Order is confirmed there is a final consultation period of 42 days during which anyone aggrieved by the Order can apply to the High Court to have the case decided by a judge. However this can only be on a point of law, not evidence.
Final note, if the case needs to be sent to the SoS there is a back log of about 30 cases waiting to be sent. At the moment any Order that is opposed today is unlikely to be sent before 2016.
Current Status - February 2014:
North Yorkshire County Council have rejected the claim for a Public Right of Way through Queen Margaret's School to the Temple and back.
This is mainly due to the lack of evidence.
(Therefore it is not in the agenda for the North Yorkshire County Council Planning and regulatory functions sub-committee on Friday 7th March.)
The applicant can appeal.
Consultation October 2013:
A copy of their letter to the Parish Council is below. (The Chair of the Parish Council has since obtained an extension to the deadline in the letter until at least the end of October, and may request a further extension if this is necessary).
APPLICATION TO RECORD A PUBLIC FOOTPATH AT ESCRICK PARK, ESCRICK
North Yorkshire County Council has received an application which has been made under Section 53 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, for an order to modify the definitive map and statement of public rights of way by recording a Public Footpath across land at Escrick Park, Escrick. The application is supported by user evidence forms which state that the route has been in use, unhindered, for many years.
The purpose of Section 53 is not to create or extinguish public rights of way as such, but to correct errors and omissions by, for example, recording on the definitive map new ways which have come into existence by long use or which were missed off in the past, adding further information to the statement or changing the status of ways which were incorrectly recorded or removing ways shown in error.
To enable me to assess the likely impact of this application, please send me any views or comments you may have on this application (including any evidence which you believe may be relevant) within 28 days of the date of this letter. Please note that we will keep the personal information you provide to us secure in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and it will only be used for the purposes of consultation. However the Council is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and so could be required to disclose publicly your response. In such circumstances the Council would remove all personal and identifying information prior to disclosure.
Definitive Map Office
The Parish Council has received the following letter on behalf of Escrick Park Estate
The Parish Council has received the following correspondence from Queen Margaret's School:
please would you inform the Parish Council that you have been informed that the School wholly associates itself with the document prepared by the Estate’s Solicitor to be presented to the meeting this evening. You might also inform the Council meeting of the following on behalf of the School;
The School is in the process of preparing statements from former members of staff etc. who can speak to the true position. With regard to the alleged right. Those statements will be lodged within the revised time limits imposed as part of the evidence gathering process, but, by way of example only, I attach a note of a report made by the (then) Head Master to the Executive Committee of the School’s Board of Governors in May 1997 (although dated 1996 the evidence shows that it was presented in 1997). This demonstrates that the School was taking steps, as far back as 1997 (and the evidence will show this going on even long before that) to prevent unauthorised access to its campus. The security man in question will provide, (if necessary sworn), evidence of his having turned back residents who attempted to access the School site without prior authority at this time.
Such evidence is wholly inconsistent with the alleged existence with a “right” and, given that this is an issue that now must go through due process of testing the evidence, it is hard to see how the Council might consider itself able to take a view other than one of neutrality, although individual Councillors who have evidence to provide should, of course, be free to provide it.
Those are the views of the School.
Clerk to the Governors
The Parish Council meeting on Monday 7th October discussed the matter and agreed to circulate the following letter, which was circulated to households during the week ending 26th October.
Further details will be publish here in due course.
The Clerk submitted the following document containing extracts from the archived Parish Council minutes to NYCC on 31st October 2013.
More details (external links):
North Yorkshire Council pages relating to Definitive Map Modification Orders: http://www.northyorks.gov.uk/article/24005
The Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management website provides further details on the different types of Rights of Way and processes for recording and amending these: http://www.iprow.co.uk/ and specifically relating to Modification Orders: http://www.iprow.co.uk/gpg/index.php/Modification_Orders