Camber Right of Way Application – Update 17
In our last update on 19 December 2018 we advised you that the Council announced they had lost the official Definitive Map and that this was their reason for not publishing a Definitive Map Modification Order (DMMO) for the public right of way around the Camber. We are now pleased to report that this difficulty has been overcome and an Order was published last Thursday 21 February 2019. Please see these two Council website links for details of the Notice and the Order.
You may recall back in June 2018 (Supporters Update 14) we advised that Portsmouth City Council had stated its intention to object to its own Order regarding this Camber Public Right of Way, regardless of the evidence that public rights have existed as we have proved.
Before the Order can be confirmed and thereby enacted in law, opportunity has to be given for support, objections or representations to be raised and formally considered. The Notice publishing the Order states that any such statements must be received by 12 April 2019. It is therefore very important that we all now take this opportunity to register our support for this Public Right of Way that the Planning Inspector has affirmed based on the weight of evidence we have supplied over the last four years.
How to Help?
There are a number of ways you can help, and please contact us if you need any pointers. Some of you may have first become a witness/supporter of our cause back in 2014 and might be uncertain of what evidence you previously supplied. Do not despair, as we have copies of all previous evidence/letters provided and notes of all official interviews conducted and can supply you with these. Please phone or email if you need any such information.
- If you wrote or emailed Portsmouth City Council in response to their past investigations into the existence of this Right of Way, or been interviewed as part of these investigations, then you should re-state your support for this Definitive Map Modification Order; confirm that your previous evidence still stands; and that you expect it to be taken into account at any future proceedings.
- If you were an original witness for the Right of Way application, or have since completed a User Evidence Form as a Right of Way user, then you should re-state your support for the Definitive Map Order and confirm that your original evidence still stands and you expect this evidence to be taken into account in any future proceedings regarding the published Order.
- If you are a supporter who has not yet provided evidence of use of this right of way and would now like to, then you can write to the Council stating that you are a previous or current user of this route and would like to input your evidence of such use/knowledge.
- If you are a supporter and do not fall into the above three categories but would still like to help, then simply state your support for the Order.
We cannot stress how important it is that you go the last mile and please contribute your input before the deadline of 12 April 2019. It is vital to demonstrate the breadth and depth of your support to ensure confirmation of the Order. The Council’s Notice invites input by writing to City Solicitor, Portsmouth City Council, Civic Offices, Portsmouth PO1 2PX. When writing to support the Order, please make it clear that your evidence must be taken into account in the event of a Public Inquiry.
What Happens Next?
Following the 12 April 2019 deadline for submitting supporting comments in regard to the Order, the procedure requires the Council to confirm the Order if there are no outstanding objections. However if objections remain unresolved then the Council is required to submit the Order to the Secretary of State for confirmation. An Inspector will be appointed to review the evidence and decide if confirmation is appropriate. This review might be in the form of written representation, an informal hearing, or a more formal Public Inquiry.
Finally, in our last update we referred to the Council’s proposal to introduce a Public Access Policy for the Camber their consultation on this issue. We should reiterate that this policy does not secure public rights and indeed restricts public access further than currently exists. The consultation has now completed and a Cabinet decision meeting is scheduled for 12 March 2019.
Thank you for your continuing support, and we will keep you posted of events as they unfold.
Camber Access Policy
The City Solicitor met with Cllr Rob Wood to discuss an access policy produced by officers to confirm the rights of local people to access the Camber. Cllr Rob Wood had some concerns and requested some amendments, which have been duly made.
The Council will seek the views of residents and businesses at the Camber, and consider those views before adopting the policy. It is anticipated, for example, that a formal policy position will help to allay local concerns regarding young people swimming and diving by expressly stating that persons under the age of 18 without a responsible adult are trespassers at the Camber.The access policy will formalise the current state of affairs for public access to the Camber. It will balance the rights of people visiting the Camber for leisure and the rights of people conducting business on the waterfront. On the ground that will mean that people can walk around the Camber but will have to avoid certain areas when dock operations might make it dangerous.
Although similar, the access policy is not the same as a public right of way and that is for a very good reason: public rights of way cannot strike a balance. Public rights of way very strictly limit the use of the land to people making use of the highway. That would give pedestrians absolute priority over those making use of the water and quayside to unload cargo, launch and retrieve boats, perform maintenance, access pontoons by bridgeheads and position equipment, to name only a few activities that a working quayside should accommodate.
The Council is opposed to the grant of a public right of way because it would result in a legally enforceable right for any person to complain that the right of way is obstructed by usual port activities within at least 3 metres of the quayside. The Council would then have a duty in law to prohibit the activities constituting obstructions because obstruction of a public right of way is a criminal offence. In practice, this would mean that the Camber could no longer function as a port.
Despite this, some people are still pursuing a right of way. At their request the Planning Inspectorate, based in Bristol, has instructed the Council to produce a formal Order that proposes a right of way at the Camber. The Council intends to do this before 21 February 2019. The Order will then be opened up to formal consultation for public comment. As part of that consultation, the Council will object to the Order on the basis that the Order’s scope is excessive and that a public right of way would not respect port operations. After the consultation, the Planning Inspectorate will hold an inquiry to consider the Order, listen to the supporters of a public right of way, listen to the objectors and the Council, and decide whether a right of way should be granted.
In summary, the Council wants to find a balance between the public walking around the Camber for leisure and maritime users conducting business and hobbies. The best way to do this is through an access policy with public and political backing, not an inflexible right of way.
MP comes to the Camber
Right of Way strides forth for Camber Campaigners
This time last year we advised FOOPA members that fresh Right of Way applications had been made to Portsmouth City Council in July 2016 for a Restricted Byway or Footpath around the Camber quays, following the dismissal of our Appeal to the Secretary of State for a Byway Open to All Traffic.
A year is no time at all when it comes to Right of Way matters, as we’ve discovered. However, we are pleased, and relieved, to announce that the tables have finally turned and we have entered a new chapter following news we received on 23 February 2018 that our second Appeal was successful!
This means that the Camber quaysides are a ‘step’ closer to being officially recorded as a public right of way. The Secretary of State’s Planning Inspectorate has directed Portsmouth City Council to raise an order for a Restricted Byway encompassing the entire 575 metre long road that had benefitted from established public rights over centuries until it was blocked in 2014.
There are lots of people to thank – not least the many of you who lent your support, encouragement and donations, as well as contributing vital evidence to us and the Council during the investigation periods. It has finally paid off, with help from the Open Spaces Society and our legal expert who gave advice and insights, not forgetting the wonderful team at Portsmouth History Centre who assisted us in unearthing archived material that we submitted to reinforce our case. Equally important are the other volunteers who, like us, sat for hours in the Library sifting through mountains of dusty annals.
In case any of you have forgotten as it’s so long, this all started in May 2014 when the Camber right of way was obstructed by site construction for the Ben Ainslie Racing headquarters and the consequential relocation of other Camber users. At the time, we talked to Council officers in an effort to get the route protected for public use, but by November 2014 we hit a brick wall and submitted a Right of Way application, demonstrating that the route had been used by the public for 20 years without challenge or interruption.
The council refused the application, in part because it considered the use of the right of way would interfere with the use of Camber Dock for statutory port duty, despite the applicants and witnesses attesting that their public rights over this route had co-existed with port activities without historical evidence of any conflict. Our fresh applications in 2016 were again refused by the council, so in 2017 we submitted a second appeal to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to direct the council to make an order.
The Planning Inspector carried out a thorough re-examination of the evidence and grounds of appeal submitted. From his report, dated 21 Feb 2018, it is clear that the Inspector has judged the PCC decision to be incorrect both in terms of their understanding of the application of the law and their analysis of the evidence provided. The Inspector has therefore allowed the appeal and directed that the Council should raise an order to amend the Definitive Map of public rights of way by the addition of a Restricted Byway over the route as proposed in the application. The Inspector stated that the width of this ROW along its route would be determined by the evidence of what width was available and used prior to obstructions following the building of the Land Rover BAR Headquarters building in May 2014.
The Council is able to challenge the Inspector’s decision by judicial review in the High Court if they wish — they have three months to decide. However we cannot see anything in the Inspector’s reasoning that would indicate any possibility of success by such action, which would also give rise to considerable expense to Council taxpayers.
Like you, we hope the Council will consult widely with local residents without further delay and publish a formal Order that accords with the law and everyone is happy with. We trust our local Councillors are taking positive action to encourage this approach. Our campaign needs to continue until this is achieved and the Rights of Way Definitive Map consequently amended. Ken Bailey and Anna Koor