Last Friday, there was a meeting at Devon County Council to consider the application for Public Rights of Way through Knowle.
Looking at the order of service:
Devon County Officer Nick Steenman-Clark, reading from his report Public Rights of Way () - Fri Jun 21 2013 made it clear that he did not support the application.
East Devon Deputy CEO Richard Cohen claimed that 'there had always been signs' indicating limitations to any public right of way.
Secretary of the Knowle Residents' Assn Julia Harbour requested a postponement of the decision, referring to a judgement before the Supreme Court re Barkers vs North Yorks County Council. She refuted the claims that there had been signage at the site and referred to the designation of Knowle as part of the first Civic Arboretum.
Resident of Sidmouth, Barry Raby, claimed that there has been 'uninterrupted and unimpeded' access through the Knowle parkland for twenty years.
There was confusion as to whether the parallel application for Village Green status was relevant or not...
There was also confusion over the definition of whether use of the paths has been 'as of right' or 'by right' - which Councillors and other laymen were not able to grasp. Legal advice Simon Clarey said that 'by right' means that a legal right already exists; whereas after twenty years, 'as of right', the walker can give rise to a right to walk that path. The District Council had dedicated the specific 'by right' usage - but on its own terms.
The Chair Philip Sanders wanted clarification over conflicting evidence on appearance of signage - that there had been several affidavits confirming their complete absence until the application was made. Officer Nick Steenman-Clark confirmed this was a 'conflict of evidence'.
The Chair also sought clarity re the designation of Knowle parkland as residential land in the District Council's draft Local Plan. Officer Nick Steenman-Clark said that the publication of 'revisions' to the draft Local Plan by the District Council 'included proposals to develop parts of the Knowle site' which 'led to the applications' for public rights of way and led to the District Council 'seeking planning permission in order to dispose of the land.'
Pressing on about the issue of signage, the Chair asked Officer Nick Steenman-Clark 'why we have to take the word' of the District Council 'at face value' - the reply being that the landowner's evidence should be taken in the same way as the applicants', and yet Officer Nick Steenman-Clark felt 'there was no need to consider' the presence or not of notices.
The chair reiterated the right of appeal - referred to by the Knowle Residents' Assn.
Without a debate, the vote was carried 4 to 1 that 'no Modification Order be made' (page 14 of Agenda)
Public Rights of Way - 21st June 2013 - Fri, 21st Jun 2013 - 2:00 pm - Devon County Council Webcasting