Springs Farm

Updated 5th June 2018

Following investigation, West Berkshire Council has decided NOT to make orders to record the routes shown as dashed red lines on the three attached plans as public footpaths, on the Definitive Map and Statement.

This was in response to the three Schedule 14 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 applications received from a claimant in Purley last year.

The claimant has been notified of the decisions, as has the landowner.

Reasons:

The crux of the decision NOT to make orders for the Springs Farm and Saltney Mead routes, is the effect of the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak.

In November 2017, a High Court judge stated that Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) closures falling within any 20 year period can prevent public rights of way from being recorded across affected land. Such closures form ‘interruptions’ to public use, which is a key consideration under legislation (section 31(1) Highways Act 1980). A copy of the case is available in the following link (see paragraphs 70-78, in particular paragraph 73): http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2017/2651.html

We asked path users for their recollections of 2001 FMD closures on the land. Most people could not recall, but several positively remembered that access was closed.  We examined West Berkshire Council archive files, which also indicate that public access to the land was closed off during the outbreak by formal West Berkshire Council notices, from some point around March 2001 until July 2001. It was noted that the route from the sewage works to Westbury Lane, alongside the northern railway embankment, was kept open for much of the period, but this is not the route in question.

The High Court judge explicitly disagreed with Planning Inspectorate Advice Note 15, which for many years has given the view that Foot and Mouth disease closures would not prevent a route from being deemed to be a public right of way: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rights-of-way-advice-note-15-breaks-in-user-caused-by-foot-and-mouth-disease

It was decided that the view of the High Court judge takes precedent over the Planning Inspectorate Advice Note, and that 2001 FMD outbreak closures did interrupt public use under section 31(1) Highways Act 1980.

Common Law

Public rights of way can also be inferred to exist under common law. This requires evidence to show that a landowner intended to dedicate a public right of way. Public use itself is not enough. For common law dedication, Planning Inspectorate guidelines state that ‘the burden of proving the owner’s intentions remains with the claimant […,…] this is a heavy burden and, in practice, even quite a formidable body of evidence may not suffice’. The user evidence was examined alongside various documents dating as far back to the 18th Century, including maps, legal documents, estate maps and landowner evidence. Although the user evidence indicates public use, this use was not considered to have occurred due to dedication of the routes by the landowner.

Kind Regards

Stuart Higgins
Definitive Map Officer
Countryside  West Berkshire Council  Market Street  Newbury  RG14 5LD


Update 18th January 2018

New sculpture

My colleagues at GL Hearn have this week submitted a request for a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) to West Berkshire Council. This relates to the sculpture which has recently been placed on site at Springs Farm, Arcs in Disorder: 4 Arcs x 5 by Bernar Venet.

An LDC simply seeks to confirm that planning permission is not required for something to take place, in this case the placement of a sculpture on site. Whilst obviously somewhat larger in size than a simple garden statue, we are seeking to confirm with the Council that this does not constitute development and therefore require permission. The arcs are not permanently placed or fixed to the ground by any means, and could easily be relocated with suitable equipment if required (i.e. not requiring construction or demolition).

Venet is an internationally acclaimed conceptual artist, whose works were recently displayed by the National Trust at Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire. We believe the piece will make a positive contribution to Springs Farm and the area.


Update 10th November 2017

From the 20th November part of footpath Purl 1/1 will be closed temporarily for up to 6 months while work is carried out to remove the leylandii ‘walls’ and security fencing.  The closure is to maintain public safety while the work is undertaken.  The path will be reopened once all the work is complete.

More details can be found on the document Q & A prepared by Springs Farm which can be accessed here.


Update 21st April 2017

Set of Question and answers GL Hearn


Update 11th  April 2017

Drop in session in Pangbourne on Monday 24th April from 4pm to 8pm where you can have a one to one discussion with representatives of Springs Farm.

Venue: Pangbourne Village Hall.


Update 16th Mar 2017

The contact email address for any questions about the activities at Springs Farm is springsfarm@glhearn.com.  Alternatively you may also call telephone number 0344 225 0003.


Update 23rd Feb 2017

As a result of a number of reports to WBC about the work being carried out at Springs Farm the Principal Planning Enforcement Officer visited the site and discussed the works with the owner.  Below is  a short report of his findings.

“I can now report that a comprehensive inspection of both the land and buildings has taken place at which time I met with the owner who was pleased to explain to me both the ongoing works as well as his intentions in the long term which relate to Springs Farm.

Currently the land and buildings are used exclusively as part of a private estate with associated agriculture and equine activities. These activities are ancillary to the authorised use. I am unaware of any ongoing commercial use of the land that would bring about a breach of planning control or require planning permission.

The recently observed ‘engineering operations’ have been inspected and explained. The owner states that upon the land in question an existing agricultural access track is in the process of being improved by the laying of suitable materials which will allow more efficient movements of agricultural plant and equipment. Such works are permitted as they are considered to be an agricultural improvement of the land not requiring planning permission. The importation of inert waste materials to facilitate the above has been observed, considered and again does not bring about a breach of planning control as the materials are considered to be suitable for the purpose.

It has been noted that extensive fencing works have recently been conducted and again these are considered to be ‘permitted development’ as the materials used are acceptable and the height of the ‘means of enclosures’ does not exceed 2 meters above ground level. The fencing has been erected upon land which is within the land owners ownership and control. I am unaware of any infringements or negative impact on any Public Rights of Way brought about by these works.

There as you may know several grade 2 listed buildings upon the land. These are of high priority to both the Council and it seems to the land owner as well. It has been noted that certain relatively minor breaches of Listed Building Legislation have occurred prior to the current owners taking control of the land. I am confident these matters will be resolved in the near future via accepted channels and with an input from my Conservation colleagues. If any new Planning or Listed Building applications are made in the future you will have the opportunity to comment in the usual way.

Richard Beech
WBC Principal Planning Enforcement Officer


Update 22nd Feb 2017

A productive meetings was held on Tuesday 14th February with representatives of Springs Farm, Pangbourne Parish Council and the Definitive Map Office from WBC.  A number of issues that local residents had flagged were raised with the Springs Farm representatives and they agreed to investigate further and institute any corrective actions that were found necessary.

Also the meeting agreed that two public meetings would be held at which Springs Farm would explain what works were currently being under taken and their plans for the future.  It would also provide an opportunity for local residents to express their views.  One meeting would be held in Purley on Thames and the other in Pangbourne.  Local residents would be able to attend either meeting.  One proviso was that the plan to hold these meetings was based on the situation that applied at the time of the meeting (14.02.17) with Springs Farm.  Should the (legal) situation change then this may need to be reviewed.


Update 16th Feb 2017

Recently there has been a great deal of interest  from some local people in the work which is being done on the land owned by Springs Equestrian Centre, formally known as Springs Farm.  Much of their land is being enclosed by fencing in preparation for the arrival of horses, we understand.  This work has resulted in the blocking of some paths used by walkers.

There are only three public footpaths (marked on West Berkshire’s Definitive Map) in this immediate area:

  • The Thames Path – alongside the River Thames.
  • Purl 7 – which runs from the River Thames along the east side of Sul Brook to the sewerage works at the end of Bourne Road.
  • Purl 1 – which runs from the sewerage works, along the railway line until it reaches the unused tunnel.  It then diverts at a 45-degree angle away from the railway line towards the path that runs in front of Springs Farm until it reaches the adopted road at Westbury Lane.

There is also a stretch of permissive path (not a public path but where access is allowed by the landowner).  This forks off from Purl1 at the unused tunnel and continues along beside the railway line to where it joins Westbury Lane.  This section is marked by notices installed by the landowner.

Map showing the public footpaths in the area around Springs Equestrian Centre in purple.  We have added the permissive path in red.
(NOTE:  The final stretch of Purl 1 to were it joins Purl2 at Westbury Lane Bridge is not a public footpath but a public highway and hence is not shown on the map.  As a public highway it can be walked and used by all vehicles and is maintained by WBC.)

The paths which are now blocked are tracks which local people have trodden for many years but are neither public nor permissive footpaths.  We are aware that many of you may have walked paths in this area over the years but they are not currently shown on the definitive map.  It is possible for footpaths to be added to the definitive map if it can be demonstrated that people have had unrestricted access over a number of years to walk them.  If you believe this is the case then you need to contact Stuart Higgins at West Berkshire who is responsible for managing the definitive map, email: stuart.higgins@westberks.gov.uk, tele: 01635 503251.

Parishioners from both Purley and Pangbourne who feel strongly about loss of the footpaths have asked Purley and Pangbourne Parish Councils to act on their behalf and make an application for a Definitive Map Modification Order from West Berkshire.

However , at the Parish Council meeting on the 19th January, after a full and open discussion, the Parish Council voted by a majority to invite Pangbourne Parish Council, Springs Equestrian and West Berkshire’s Footpaths Officer to a meeting to negotiate a way forward with regards to footpaths.  We will keep you informed of progress on this.

Sue Briscoe
Chair of Purley on Thames Parish Council

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