Those of you who use the large field that lies between the Spoute Recreation Green and Allens Lane will probably have seen the deposition posted on the stile at the Long Mill Lane entrance early last year. It caused concern among some regular users, since no such notice had been posted within living memory and it was feared it meant that access to this much used area, including part of the River Bourne could be denied in the future.
In fact, such deposition are regularly made by landowners under Sec. 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 to make it clear that, although walkers can use a designated Public Right of Way, they have no right of access to the private land surrounding it.
The field in question is crossed by MR 335, a Public Right of Way (PROW) that runs from Long Mill Lane to Allens Lane passing along the river bank only for the last 150 yards or so. Crucially, it does not follow the bank in the opposite direction as the river winds towards the Spoute Recreation Ground. Some local people who have accessed the Recreation Ground for many years along the river bank have raised concerns with the Parish Council that if they were to be confined purely to the PROW in the future, they would not be able to use their traditional route from Allens Lane to the Spoute Recreation Ground.
Kent County Council advise that an application could be made under the Definitive Map of Public Rights of Way Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 53, for MR335 to be extended along the edge of the River Bourne, from the point where the existing footpath bends towards Allens Lane, to the unofficial, but much used entrance into the Spoute Recreation Ground. This would be a lengthy and rigorous process and would be dependent on sufficient evidence that this route along the river bank had been used continually without hindrance or obstruction for the past twenty years.
Parish Councillors discussed this issue on Monday 6th January 2015 and decided there was a need to gauge local opinion as to the support for such an application before taking matters further.
If you have a view on the advisability of such an application or would be prepared to offer written evidence to support it, please contact the Parish Clerk, via firstname.lastname@example.org.