Concerns over ROW outsourcing

From: Newcastle Cycling Campaign
Date: 15 September 2012 09:39
To: Linda Arkley (NT Mayour) and Vivienne Geary (NT Legal)

Dear Linda
Dear Vivienne

Through our contacts we hear that there are plans to outsource the provision of services associated with the rights of way (ROW) network in your area.

We are concerned that this could have a negative impact on the bridleways and cycleways that are important to us for commuting to places of work, recreation and local access, general active travel, health and wellbeing of the region’s residents may they be walking or taking to the bicycle or horse.

We would like to know what aspects of the service are likely to be affected and what type of supervision/oversight there is going to be between the Council and the service provider on matters such as path maintenance (repair of bridges, surfaces and signage, etc), updating and maintaining the definitive map, attending to legal issues and inquiries and matters of local planning, and attending to everyday problems of path obstructions and cropping and so on.

ROW issues can be quite complex and it is not clear to us how these matters can be passed to a private service company. We are also aware that there are many kilometres of paths that are not currently recorded on the definitive map and this task needs to be addressed by a competent person who is aware of the legal issues and the problem of dealing with landowners. For example: damage from recent flooding to the North Tyneside ROW network is extensive, it is not clear how the authority intends to meet its obligations to repair this damage and maintain the network.

Until we are told otherwise we believe that legal responsibilities are vested by the various pieces of ROW legislation onto the Highway Authority and cannot be divested to a third party. It is our view that the necessary level of supervision can only be achieved by having an adequately funded dedicated professional ROW Officer on the council staff who would manage all aspects of the ROW network and the interface with the outside maintenance contractor, liaise with the council’s legal department and also the department responsible for managing the definitive map.

The extensive ROW network is a valued resource – something the authorities should be proud of. It has been developed with significant council effort and lottery funding over the last few decades. The authority has a statutory duty to maintain the network. It is difficult to see how this could be done solely through the services of a private company.

With this letter we represent our 550 members in Tyne and Wear.

We are looking forward to hearing from you; and we hope you can allay our concerns.

Could you please acknowledge receipt of this communication?

Kind regards
KATJA LEYENDECKER on behalf of the Newcastle Cycling Campaign
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