The path at Fulford

The path at Fulford

A local authority has been ordered to review its procedures after it told a campaigner it would take 29 years to add a footpath to official maps.

The local government ombudsman told City of York Council it must complete a re-evaluation of its service within three months.

The watchdog said the review should look at improving the service after the delay in dealing with Graham Cheyne’s application to have a footpath at Fulford added to the definitive map.

The Open Spaces Society supported its member Mr Cheyne in his battle. If paths are not recorded on the map, they are given no protection, it said.

Mr Cheyne applied in 2012 to add the path to the map. Two years later, with the council having done nothing, he applied to the Environment Secretary to direct the council to determine the application. He told the council to decide within 12 months.

Nearly two years later, in 2016, the council determined the application, but resolved not to make the order.

Mr Cheyne appealed against this and an inspector acting for the Environment Secretary this time directed the council to make the order. Nothing happened and when the campaigner contacted the council it said it would be 29 years before it could make the order because it had such a large backlog.

At this point he complained to the ombudsman, who has ruled that the council must start and finish a review of its service for recording paths on the definitive map within three months, with the aim of reducing the backlog, and within a further month report the findings to councillors and seek their approval for any changes required.

The ombudsman ordered that within a further two weeks it must inform Mr Cheyne when it expects to be able to make the order on his application.

It must also write to all the other applicants for orders, updating them on changes in the service and giving a time frame for determining their applications.

Mr Cheyne said: “Were it not for my complaint to the ombudsman it would very likely have been 36 years from the time of my application before York Council even looked at it.

“It has taken seven years to reach the current position. This is unacceptable when councils have a legal duty to keep their path maps up to date. I am grateful to the Open Spaces Society for its work in pressing local authorities to do their job and the support it offers its members.”

Kate Ashbrook, the OSS general secretary, said: “We congratulate Graham for his persistence.

“Provided York Council does adhere to the ombudsman’s ruling, we should see some improvements in its rights-of-way service which will be of great benefit to the public.”

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