The Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament who scrutinised the Draft Deregulation Bill published its report on 11 December 2013. The Committee supported the inclusion of measures in the draft Bill to streamline the processing of claims for public paths based on historic evidence. These include enabling a landowner, over whose land a path is claimed, to discuss with the local authority a simultaneous diversion to make the path claim uncontentious.
The Joint Committee said that they expected the Government to show leadership and balance to take unrecorded rights of way reform to a successful conclusion and needed to address the impact of the current backlog of applications, cuts to rights of way staff and cut-off date will have on the implementation of the new provisions by local authorities.
However, the Committee recognised that there are broader rights of way issues which still need to be addressed and they urged the Government to take action given the level of public interest in rights of way. Of the over 300 responses received by the Joint Committee, around half were about rights of way.
The NFU submitted written evidence on 17 September to the Joint Committee, supporting the clauses included in the Draft Deregulation Bill but recommending:
- a presumption against routing rights of way through farmyards and other areas on the grounds of safety, security and nuisance;
- enabling structures to be placed on rights of way on the grounds of safety or security, e.g. to prevent vehicular access on a footpath,
- fees or deposits for applications to record or alter a right of way on a definitive map,
- that for rights of way claimed after a period of use there should be a fixed registration period after use has been called into question that an application to modify the definitive map can be made,
- improve the quality of evidence to justify claims for a right of way.
It was reported in several national papers that a presumption in favour to divert a public right of way around farmyards, houses, or gardens would be included in statutory guidance accompanying the legislation by the Government.