Jo Ind tells how years of lobbying paid off in a bid to open old Birmingham footpaths
Christmas presents come in all shapes and sizes. Birmingham ramblers have been opening one that is a couple of hundred yards long.
Members of the City of Birmingham Ramblers Group are celebrating the first of the historic footpaths they have claimed to be legally defined.
The path at School Lane, Old Yardley has been put on what is known as the Definitive Map. It means that by law, it now has to stay as a traffic-free right of way.
“We are delighted to be able to celebrate the entry of the first Ramblers-claimed path onto the Definitive Map,” said Birmingham Ramblers footpath secretary Bob Hunt. “It’s the perfect Christmas gift.”
It was 60 years ago that the National Parks and Access to Countryside Act was passed which meant that if a path was recorded on the Definitive Map, it was legally enshrined as a right of way and could not be closed to the public.
In Birmingham, it took a long time for the city council to start work on drawing up the map that covered the city. In 1988, it was directed to add a path to the Definitive Map under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Following a long delay by the city council, Birmingham Ramblers began to lobby regularly. Six years ago, Bob Hunt initiated a postcard lobbying campaign to get the Council to act. In 2004, the city established its Access Forum, which took up the cause of the production of a definitive map.
Anyone can submit a claim for a public right of way to the city council. The Ccuncil then has to check that there are no other legal claims on that piece of land before it can put it on the map. The time that takes depends on whether it is a straightforward or a contested case.
The map can be viewed at the Highways Information Team office at Lancaster Circus.
Ordnance Survey takes its information about footpaths from the Definitive Map.
Birmingham Ramblers have submitted around 100 claims to footpaths. The path in Old Yardley is the first to have been officially marked on the document.
“You have to go through a lot of procedure but once it’s a right of way, it stays that way,” says Bob. “All the paths that we’ve claimed are ancient.
“The first one is in Yardley Old Village. It runs not far from the old church and runs across two bits of playing field. It’s got some old trees alongside it. It’s short, but most paths in cities are short.
“It’s very important to local people who want to get connections from where they live to the bus stop, pub or school. It’s about people trying to stop using their cars and walk more. It’s about safety and good health.
‘‘We are trying to work with the local authorities to develop footpaths even more.”
A spokesman for the city council: “ It’s great news that the Right of Way has been safeguarded for future generations. Officers have been working with the Ramblers Association to protect a number of paths and the Right of Way Improvements Plan for Birmingham was adopted in November 2007 setting out a possible ten-year programme of improvements.”