Thursday, 28 January 2010

Moyle District Council's 'Duty to the World'

Keep Her Lit, Davy
Duty Calls
Red Book or Red Card for Moyle DC?

BUSHMILLS DUP councillor David McAllister says Moyle Council has a "worldwide duty" to ensure a public right of way to the Giant's Causeway remains.

He was speaking at a meeting of Moyle Council where it was agreed legal advice should be sought regarding the terms used as part of an ‘footpath abandonment order’.

Cllr McAllister said it was a “very important” issue and said that the Council was not in the business of abandoning rights of way.

He added: “My concern is if it is shut the public will no longer have the right to tread the stones. It is not just a Moyle issue but a world wide duty we have.” [Source: Ballymoney and Moyle Times online]

Cllr McAllister is to be congratulated for highlighting this rights of way issue, an issue that probably doesn't get the attention it deserves in Northern Ireland.

I'm not sure why the Roads Service has placed an Abandonment Order [pdf file] when the 'path' is merely being relocated to its original way through one of the Windy Gaps at the Causeway and that part of the road/path which is being abandoned is that part which goes around the to be demolished visitor's centre containing the cafe.

If Cllr McAllister speaks to the Council's Chief Executive he'll find that councils have a duty to assert and map rights of way [pdf file] and they have the power, in association with the Department of the Environment, to divert a path:

Article 3 of the Access Order places each district council under a duty to assert public rights of way, and to compile and preserve maps of public rights of way in its district.

Article 15: Diverting an existing path

• Before making an order the council must be satisfied that it is expedient to divert the path, in the interests of the owner, lessee or occupier of the land crossed by the path or otherwise.
• Before confirming an order the council or Department of the Environment must again be satisfied that it is expedient as set out above.
• The council or Department must further be satisfied that:
- the path will not be substantially less convenient to the public as a consequence of the diversion, and;
- it is expedient to confirm the order having regard to the effect it will have on public enjoyment of the path as a whole or on any other public path, on other land served by the existing path, and on land affected by any proposed new path, taking into account the provisions for compensation.

Moyle DC could have proceeded quite easily along the diversion route as the National Trust would raise no objections. Perhaps it's not too late to exercise this duty.

Perhaps Moyle DC could also publish the maps of public rights of way in its district online for the benefit of those who wish to go a little bit off the beaten track and who also want to ensure that these rights are asserted. I'm assuming, of course, that the Council has been doing its duty!!