A right of way problem solved in Bishopstone
During the summer of 2015 a traveller made an encampment on a piece of grass verge on the side of the Ridgeway Trail close to the village of Bishopstone. Numbers of complaints were received from parishioners concerned about the amount of rubbish and clutter this created and the detrimental effect it had on the area. The individual was living in a large truck on the site and carrying on a business.
Over the next 18 months parish councillors sought to have action taken in order to have the individual moved on. The Church Commissioners as adjacent landowners, Swindon Borough Council through the Ward Councillor and the Landscape Officer of the North Wessex Downs AONB were all contacted, but to no avail. None appeared willing, or able, to take satisfactory action.
In January 2017 the parish council contacted CPRE to seek their help. With our experience of issues relating to rights of way through membership of GLEAM (Green Lanes Action Group) and being a member of the Wiltshire Council Countryside Access Forum we were able to offer advice regarding the legal obligations of Swindon Borough Council as Highway Authority under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1984 section 77-78 which gives the local authority powers to remove unauthorised campers and their belongings from highway land. Every public path is shown on a Definitive Map and the width of the path is recorded. No person is permitted to stop on a Highway (which is the category under which a Byway, Bridleway or Footpath fall.) The rule applies principally to a hard surfaced A, B or C road, travelled on by vehicular traffic but is equally valid for any person or object on any of the other categories of publicly maintained road.
Finally, after a very long fight, the traveller was served with a Direction Order by Swindon Borough Council with a deadline to vacate the area. SBC could apply to the court to enforce the Direction if the individual failed to move. Fortunately this was not necessary as the traveller left.
This is a good example of where vigilance, and pressure, from local people reported to the right department of the local authority are vital for the protection of our countryside in all its aspects.