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Green spaces inquiry

PUBLISHED: 14:44 02 July 2008 | UPDATED: 14:37 07 July 2010

Campaigners in Dereham hoping to save “green lungs” of the town from becoming potential rat runs for cars got their say at public inquiry last week.

People living around Neatherd Moor and Etling Green and those who use the green spaces for walks and recreation were concerned that an order to open up paths between the two areas to cars would ruin the beauty spots.

Campaigners in Dereham hoping to save “green lungs” of the town from becoming potential rat runs for cars got their say at public inquiry last week.

People living around Neatherd Moor and Etling Green and those who use the green spaces for walks and recreation were concerned that an order to open up paths between the two areas to cars would ruin the beauty spots.

A public inquiry, held by a planning inspector at Dereham Town Football Club in Norwich Road, heard that if a request made in 1984 to have tracks running between and over the sites designated footpaths had been carried out, the whole issue would not have been raised.

And that due to a new law, protecting rights of way from being opened up to cars, the inquiry over Norfolk County Council's order to make the paths Byways Open to All Traffic was partially just about a point of law.

To add to the bureaucracy of the issue, the point of law could only be discussed once it was proved, or disproved, carriages ever used the paths as far back as 1801 - even though no one could recall any vehicle other than the odd tractor using them, the inquiry heard.

And it all had to be discussed despite both parties - the county council and local campaigners - wanting the same thing, for the paths to become restricted rights of way, meaning vehicles would not be allowed to use them.

However, because the county council had already made the orders, they were powerless to change them and needed the inspector's ruling.

The four paths have been used for years by people in the town to walk to friends' houses, walk their dogs or just enjoy the two greens.

John Hale, chairman of Etling Green residents' Association, said: “Common sense says it isn't a route for motor vehicles.

“We are hoping to improve the environment and habitat there. If it had been sorted in 1984 as a footpath, it would not have been a problem.”

He disputed the council's evidence, based on archives, and said that anyone driving carriages would have used the turnpikes and more direct routes into Dereham, not the paths between the greens.

Sarah Jenkinson, an advocate on behalf of the council, said the council would like the byways made restricted, but it was not in their power to change the orders they had made.

“Our view is that since we made these orders that the motor vehicle rights which otherwise would have existed have been lost,” she said.

Alan Beckett, the planning inspector, will report on his findings in due course,

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