Following on from Councillor Parker’s post a few days ago I wanted to provide a bit more information on the process of applying to have the footpaths within Box Wood recognised as public Rights of Way.
The process of designating these as footpaths is known as a Definitive Map Modification Order (DMMO). The application for a DMMO is submitted to Hertfordshire County Council who will then assess the evidence, consult with interested parties (applicants, landowners, parish and district councils) and make a decision.
The DMMO process is there to correctly record the existing route and not create new ones. In order for a path to be recognised in needs to have been used for a period of in excess 20 years without “force, secrecy or permission”. The 20 year period isn’t restricted to the last 20 years but any 20 year period of use. I believe the recent signs erected circa Feb 2018 stating “BOX WOOD Private Woodland No Rights of Way” may have an impact on this. The application would, therefore, need to show the footpaths have been in use prior to 1998.
There are two ways of providing evidence to support a DMMO application, documentary evidence or witness evidence. Documentary evidence is old maps or documents show the paths. Whilst some maps do show paths in Box Wood it would be difficult to prove these as RoWs. The most appropriate evidence for this application is likely to be witness evidence. Witnesses would need to complete a User Evidence Form which includes the following information;
- The location of route being applied for (including a marked map)
- How long they have used the route for
- How often they have used the route
- What modes of transport they have used (foot, cycle, horseback, etc)
- Any obstructions on the route such as fences, gates or stiles and dates they were in place
- Any signs such as “Private, Keep Out, No RoW” and dates they were in place
- Any permission given by the landowner to use the route
- Any person stopping you using the route
- Any other useful information such as photographs to support the application
A User Evidence Form needs to be completed by each witness for each individual route being applied for.
Normally each witness would need to mark a blank map of the route themselves but due to the lack of topographical features within the wood this could be difficult. I have agreed with the RoW Officer at HCC to create a common map which users can then mark up with the routes they have used. I intend to map the current paths within the wood in the next few days and hopefully have a map ready in about a week’s time.
Once the map is ready, I can then send this out along with a user evidence form to anyone who wishes to support the application. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to provide witness evidence. Completed user evidence forms would need to be returned to me and issued to HCC with the application form.
This process could take some time to complete and HCC currently has a large backlog of cases to look at. However, the application itself, and any publicity of it, could help to deter any prospective purchasers.
Tom Wren 16.7.2020