Reporting problems with rights of way to the statutory authorities

Introduction

It is very important that problems on public rights of way, especially in the countryside, are reported to the relevant local government authority. This is for a number of reasons:

  • Without notification, there is unlikely to be any action to rectify the problem
  • Local government budgets are under great pressure – public rights of way are not immune, even though maintenance is a statutory responsibility. It is very important that problems are logged with the authority concerned
  • Some walks you want to lead may be impossible without action – such as replacing a missing bridge

This note provides some guidance on how to make reports. It focuses on on-line forms because that is the contact method preferred by most authorities. However, mindful of the fact that not everyone has access to the internet or email, addresses are also provided. It should be noted that these are subject to change.

Who is responsible?

Problems with rights of way are the responsibility of the relevant highways authority. In most cases near to Cambridge this is the County Council – Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire and Suffolk. However, we do have a number of ‘Unitary’ authorities as neighbours, including Peterborough City, Central Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough Council. If you are reporting to the authority direct, then you need to know which of these Councils is to be contacted.

A short cut if you have a smartphone

Most complaints are rather fiddly to lodge online – but, if you have a Smartphone, there is a quick way provided by My Society. The free app ‘Fix my street’ (Android App) (iPhone app) allows you to report a problem as you find it (if you have a signal!). You can send a photo as well, the location is auto recorded from the phones GPS, ; the app forwards the complaint to the appropriate local authority and you will be sent a confirmation.

Otherwise….

It won’t surprise you to know that every local authority has a different system for reporting problems. Most have subsumed ‘rights of way’ into their Transport & Highways departments and you have to contend with the fact that ‘complaints’ are generally about roads, street lights and pot-holes! Rights of way in the countryside are not easy to identify or report online.
You need to be aware that all footpaths, bridleways and byways have a number – e.g. Footpath 1 in Fen Ditton parish, or Bridleway 2 in Soham parish. The actual problem – if it relates to an issue such as a broken stile or damaged bridge – can also be defined by a 6 digit grid reference; ‘eastings’ are provided before ‘northings’.
Please make sure that you keep a record of the parish(es) involved, the nature of the problem, the date you encountered the problem and any other pertinent information. This can include the fact that 20 or more members of the CRC encountered the problem! You will need to provide your contact details.

Cambridgeshire

Please go to ‘Rights of way report form – Cambridgeshire County Council’ via your search engine. https://forms.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/
This is fairly straightforward to complete. There is also a more detailed and complicated way of reporting a problem:
Alternatively, you can go to ‘Travel, roads & parking’ on the County Council’s home page and then select ‘Roads & pathways fault’. Select a report on ‘Pothole or other highways fault’. This leads to an interactive map which enables you to zoom onto the parish/problem where there is an issue. First select ‘Public rights of way’ under the menu heading ‘Type of problem’. You need to make a good stab at the parish; this leads to a detailed map where you can search for the specific path where there is a problem. The map allows you to identify the path number which you then put into the form/questionnaire.
The report is logged by the County Council and you should soon receive first an acknowledgement of the complaint number for tracking purposes and subsequently a response from the rights of way officer who covers the District Council/parish.
For postal reports, please contact: Customer Feedback, Customer Services, Cambridgeshire County Council, PO Box 144, St Ives, Cambridgeshire PE27 9AU.

Hertfordshire

There is no way of reporting any path problem via an online form or an interactive map/questionnaire. You have to email complaints to row@hertfordshire.gov.uk . It is recommended that you give as much detail as possible, including a parish and grid reference. There is a Countryside Access team covering the county and there is an online map showing who is responsible for different areas, together with phone numbers for reporting/discussing problems. Hertfordshire has, in recent years, replaced many rights of way signs and the new ones include the relevant parish and path numbers. This helps in identifying the location of an issue onsite.
For postal reports please contact: Rights of Way Service, Hertfordshire County Council, County Hall, Pegs Lane, Hertford SG13 8DN.
If the problem is in North Hertfordshire, please also tell the local Ramblers Association representative (and CRC member) David Allard: david.allard@ntlworld.com . He is very good at following problems up with the staff involved.

Suffolk

Suffolk County’s rights of way are the responsibility of teams based in Ipswich (east) and Bury St Edmunds (west). Initially go to http://publicrightsofway.onesuffolk.net/contact-us/ and then click on the online report form. The telephone for the west area is 0345 6066171. The email is prow@suffolk.gov.uk .
For postal reports please contact: Public Rights of Way Department, Suffolk County Council, Endeavour House, 8 Russell Road, Ipswich IP1 2BX.

Essex

The most convenient method is to use the ECC’s Fault Reporting system by clicking the following, or typing into your search engine: https://secureweb1.essexcc.gov.uk/Highways/Report-a-highway-problem.aspx

This will reveal a screen for completion, however, please note that the provided map is, currently, far from user friendly as it is primarily designed for reporting faults on “Roads” as opposed to Footpaths etc. When completing your Fault Report please note the following:

1. Problem Type – select from drop down menu “public rights of way (Countryside)”

2. After you have entered the postcode, town or street the appropriate map should appear so that you can locate the position of the “fault”. HOWEVER, you MUST use your cursor to locate the nearest road and “click” on that to display the “arrow icon”, otherwise, a rejection message will appear.
When you have completed the other boxes “Submit” your Report, and the ECC sends an immediate auto response e-mail to you, containing their Reference Number together with a summary of your Report.

Additionally, the above link will give the option to:

a) Track previously reported problems using the ECC reference number, and/or

b) View a previously reported problem using the ECC’s interactive OS map by inserting town, street or postcode. This map can be found at: http://www.essexhighways.org/Transport-and-Roads/Getting-Around/Walking/Public-Rights-of-Way/Interactive-map.aspx

For postal reports please contact: Public Rights of Way team, Essex Highways, County Hall, Market Road, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1QH.

Central Bedfordshire

Central Bedfordshire Council is, in contrast to Essex, much easier to contact on-line. Go to http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/environment/countryside/public-rights-of-way/ and then select ‘reporting an issue’. There is a straight forward form to complete.
For a postal complaint correspondence should be addressed to Rights of Way Team, Central Bedfordshire Council, Priory House, Chicksands, Bedfordshire

Northamptonshire

Go to http://www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/en/councilservices/transport/roads/pages/default.aspx and then select in the menu ‘Report a hazard/problem’. Next select ‘Report other problem’ and in turn select ‘Rights of Way’ and the appropriate issue. Then you can select either a map or form to provide more details.
For a postal report, please write to: Rights of Way, Transport & Streets, Northamptonshire County Council, County Hall, Northampton NN1 1ED.

City of Peterborough

Although there is a page on the Council’s website detailing general information about public rights of way, there is no dedicated online form for reporting problems or complaints. It appears that the only option is to use the generic ‘Contact Us’ section on the Council’s home page. It is suggested that as much information as possible is provided, including parish, grid reference, nature of problem etc.
Reports sent by post should be addressed to: Public Rights of Way section, Peterborough City Council, Town Hall, Bridge Street, Peterborough PE1 1HF.

Updated: 2oNov2014

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