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VALE OF GLAMORGAN LOCAL ACCESS FORUM

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 15th July, 2014.

 

Present:  Mr. F. Coleman (Chairman), Mrs. V.M. Hartrey, Mr. J. Herbert, Mr. H.S. McMillan, Mr. M. Dunn, Ms. E. Nash, Mr. R. Simpson and Councillor E. Williams.

 

Also present: Mr. J. Wyatt, Mrs. L. Mills, Mr. G. Teague, Mrs. S. Thomas and Ms. C. Cameron (Vale of Glamorgan Council).

 

 

(a)       Apologies for Absence -

 

These were received from Mr. S. Lait, Mr. M. Parry, Mr. R. Pittard, Mr. R. Traherne and Ms. S. Tindall (Natural Resources Wales).

 

(b)       Minutes -

 

AGREED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 5th February, 2014 be accepted as a correct record.

 

As agreed at the meeting of the Forum on 5th February, 2014, Ms. Clare Cameron, Principal Transport Safety Officer had been invited to provide an update with regard to the Active Travel Programme.  Ms. Cameron informed the Forum that a response to the Welsh Government consultation on the design guidance and statutory guidance for the delivery of the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 needed to be formulated by 4th August, 2014.  A report would be going to Cabinet on 28th July with regard to the consultation’s response.  The consultation document from Welsh Government provided design guidance and delivery guidance and the Forum was informed that Welsh Government wanted a quick turnaround for implementation in Autumn 2014. 

 

Members were informed that the Vale of Glamorgan Council would have a duty with regard to education, highway development and public rights of way and that the guidance would be all encompassing, not just with regard to transportation.

 

Ms. Cameron informed the Forum that the Authority would need to look at the recommended measures in detail and consider how it would enforce this guidance on developers.  There would be implications for future planning developments as there would be a legal duty to take this guidance into consideration as part of the planning process.  The Authority had one year to develop an Active Travel map, for which it had received some funding; existing and proposed routes needed to be detailed on the map and all routes would need to be audited. 

 

Criticisms of the guidance included the view that it related more to urban rather than rural areas; too much detail was required within the timescale, which included street lighting, street furniture, location of dropped kerbs, shops, etc. Ms. Cameron confirmed that the Authority would be able to make representations within the consultation document with regards to these issues. 

 

The Authority would need to identify Active Travel routes throughout the Vale of Glamorgan and implement infrastructures on these routes for both walking and cycling traffic with a view to channelling traffic onto these routes.  Furthermore, the Authority would need to upgrade the Active Travel routes to a high standard with Sustrans recommending upgrading the most direct routes. 

 

Ms. Cameron informed the Forum that some mapping had already been carried out as part of the Local Development Plan (LDP), yet these had not been audited, and they were also looking to include distances on the maps.  The Authority had three years to implement the Active Travel routes; however, there was the possibility that there might not be any of these routes within the Vale of Glamorgan.  No baseline data was currently available from the Welsh Government and there were concerns with regards to the deadline as they required quality data in order to commence the monitoring and evaluation of the Active Travel routes.  The authority did not want the countdown to start until they had received compatible data from Welsh Government.

 

Following a question, the Forum was informed that other local authorities also had concerns with regards to the high level of data involved and the amount of resources needed to deliver the requirements of the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 within the prescribed timescales.  Ms Cameron advised that they may only pick six routes and the Authority would need to justify why they had not chosen certain routes.  The focus of the first two years may well be on Barry and subsequently expand to the other areas in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

Mr. Simpson queried whether once an Active Travel route had been identified, the Authority would need to identify and implement improvements for this route.  In response, Ms. Cameron advised that this was the case; however, the Authority could request funding for this work yet this would be dependent on the identification of works required.  Another criticism of the guidance was that it was geared towards cyclists rather than walkers and the Active Travel routes had different criteria to the Safe Walking Routes to Schools Guidance.  Collaboration with other authorities with regard to the consultation document would also be taken into account in the submission.

 

In response to a query regarding whether routes for the elderly and disabled would be taken into account, Ms. Cameron informed the Forum that individuals could also put forward their own representations via the Vale of Glamorgan website.

 

Following a query from Mr. McMillan, it was confirmed that any candidate routes selected would need to be within the settlement boundary Welsh Government had chosen in order to meet the set criteria, in this case, within an urban area.  Welsh Government had stipulated that bids could not be put forward unless land issues had been resolved.

 

Ms. Cameron informed the Forum that there were not a lot of cycle routes in the Vale of Glamorgan and that there had been a shift to a more urban focus geared towards commuting rather than leisure travel.

 

The Chairman requested whether the Secretary could circulate the report once it had been to Cabinet and was informed that this could be arranged

 

In reference to the minutes from the last meeting, Mr. Teague informed the Forum that the Steering Group on Promoting Walking in the Rural Vale had recently met and that the proposals for way-marking had been discussed.  The identified walks would be tested and this was possibly something that the Forum could assist with as a quick turnaround was required.  The documents currently only existed in hard copy; however, the Group was looking at constructing a website to serve as a ‘One Stop Shop’ which would be hosted by the Tourism Department.

 

The Chairman asked how many routes were accessible for the disabled and was informed that currently only 6 gold routes existed, which were mainly coastal with a couple being inland and only one was accessible to wheelchairs. 

 

Mr. McMillan reconfirmed that members of the Local Access Forum were able to assist the Public Rights of Way Team with route repairs, feedback etc., and was informed by Mr. Teague that whilst the Public Rights of Way team facilitated volunteer schemes in partnership with Valeways, such as adopt a path and work parties, co-ordination of volunteers outside of particular programmes was not run directly by Rights of Way at present.  He further informed the Forum that, in order for a volunteer scheme to be effective, there needed to be a co-ordinated approach.  Risk assessment reviews, including providing for volunteer services, were ongoing as well as a review of the Countryside Service.  It was noted that volunteering was currently taking place within the wider countryside service and it was anticipated that volunteers would be supported to a greater degree as a result of the restructure.

 

Further discussion took place with regards to volunteers and possible assistance with regards to maintenance issues etc., Mr. Teague informed the Forum that they could reassess the situation with regards to direct support of volunteers after the restructure of the Countryside Service, however, at this point volunteering to address practical works was delivered through schemes in partnership with other organisations only. 

 

The Forum was informed that there was a requirement to send hard copies of the Definitive Map to all Town and Community Councils, Ordnance Survey and that a further copy would be kept on deposit in the Record Offices.  Mr. Simpson asked whether hard copies were distributed every time there was a revision to the map and it was confirmed that this was not the case and that any revisions made by Modification Orders would have to be read in conjunction with the Definitive Map held by the Public Rights of Way Team.  Mr. Teague confirmed that they were hoping to publish the Definitive Map in Autumn 2014 and were currently acquiring quotations for publication.

 

Mrs. Hartrey asked whether all new routes would need to be accessible to wheelchairs and cyclists and it was confirmed that this was unlikely to be the case, particularly for wheelchair access and that the appropriateness of traffic and the connections beyond would dictate whether wheelchair access would be required, for example, at Gileston the path led to fields, with stiles and a shingle beach. Furthermore, the Highways Act test stipulated that new or revised routes had to be no less convenient to use than the previous route and there were some DDA requirements within guidance produced by DEFRA.

 

The Chairman informed the Forum that they had experienced a very informative walk around Millbrook Road in Dinas Powys prior to the Forum meeting which had highlighted land ownership problems, which they had been previously unaware of.

 

The Chairman, in referring to the NRW review of Local Access Forum Working Practices, referred to there being a report to the forthcoming Local Access Forum Conference on 30th July, 2014.  He would be attending and, as neither the Vice-Chairman nor Secretary were able to do so, has asked that any other Members wishing to deputise inform him accordingly.

 

(c)        Modification and Legal Orders Update:

 

The Forum received a report detailing the latest Legal Orders received since January 2014, along with Modification Orders progress. 

 

The Chairman extended his commendations to the Public Rights of Way Team with regard to progress made with Legal Orders and Modification Orders, particularly with regard to Footpath No. 52, the Diversion of Lavernock No. 5.  Mrs. Thomas confirmed that copies of the latest maps and orders were available for the Forum to view after the meeting. 

 

The Chairman confirmed that many of Legal Orders had been financed by the Rural Development Plan (RDP) and it highlighted where priorities were falling. 

 

(d)       Maintenance Update -

 

The Forum received a report which detailed the number of issues logged since 23rd January, 2014, the number of issues resolved since 27th January, 2011 and the number of unresolved issues since 27th January, 2011.  It was confirmed that the report was cumulative and as such, the issues logged since 23rd January, 2014 were included within the issues resolved and unresolved since 27th January, 2011.

 

It was confirmed that feedback from the April 2014 Public Rights of Way surveys had been included within the maintenance of Public Rights of Ways graph and had not had a great impact on the figures. The first half of the year was on target, with the number of issues resolved being approximately 65%.

 

Following a query, Mr. Teague informed the Forum that Rights of Way Database was initially populated as the result of a 100% Condition Survey completed in early 2011 and has been maintained since.  The database has enabled the Council to better group and target outstanding issues such as by tendering for large contracts such as a recent one aimed at stile steps repairs.  He further informed the Forum that they would be contacting the individual Town and Community Councils with regards to signage; as they had powers to decide whether to remove signage or not sign post certain paths.  Mrs. Thomas informed the Forum that the feedback from the surveys was very valuable and had been fed straight into the maintenance log system. 

 

(e)       Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) Update -

 

The Forum received a report detailing the draft work programme for 2014-15 as follows:

 

Project Heading

ROWIP Action Point

 

Preparation of new Definitive Map, analysis and reports of CAMS data

·      1 - Completed a review of the Definitive Map

·      2 - Improve the procedures for keeping the Definitive Map up to date

·      9 - Full implementation of Countryside and Access Management System (CAMS) for ongoing maintenance management

·      30 - Extend partnership working with neighbouring Authorities in particular with regard to cross-border routes

Creation & Improvement of PROW links between communities and within Coastal Zones to the WCP, including ecological survey and biodiversity interpretations where necessary

·      25 - Work with equestrian groups to investigate a more coherent network of suitable routes, including potential upgrading of existing routes to bridleway status

·      28 - Work with landowners and occupiers to investigate a more coherent network of routes especially for horse riders (see Action Idea 25)

·      29 - Improve partnership working with Community Councils to include investigating path stewardship, community route maps and information boards

Improve of path surface through wildlife trust to Coast Path

·      13 - Catalogue and prioritise improvements to coastal path and coastal access routes including surfacing, signage and fencing

·      5 - Take opportunities to improve PROW network through conditions or obligations on planning applications associated with development proposals

Review and Support of annual clearance arrangements

·      10 - Carry out an annual clearance programme for priority routes and review the programme annually

Establish focus group including Communities First and Health Agenda reps to develop and deliver improvements for Low Use groups

·      20 - Implement least restrictive access policy for all future maintenance or improvement works following WAG guidance

·      23 - Establish a reference group to advise on opportunities to upgrade the network for people with disabilities and less mobile users and implementation of WAG guidance.

 

It was confirmed that the ROWIP Grant had been extended for another year for 2014-15 and conditions in the new offer of funding were slightly less onerous than previous years, with direct requirements to provide specific categories of projects being removed. 

 

The Chairman asked whether the Focus Group included members who were less able-bodied and in response Mr. Teague advised that they were working with the Communities First programme.  However, it covered very urban areas and, therefore, they would have to wait and see how these parts of the project progressed.

 

(f)         Coastal Access Improvement Programme (CAIP) Update:

 

The Forum received a report which detailed the progress on the Coastal Access projects listed below.  It was confirmed that the Council had engaged with Natural Resources Wales along with Cardiff, Newport and Monmouthshire Council Councils to facilitate the delivery of coastal work on a regional basis.

 

A Regional Coastal Access Officer had been recruited by Natural Resources Wales and was being hosted in the Vale of Glamorgan with accommodation costs being set against projects as match-funding.  It was confirmed that the new officer was Tricia Cottnam, who had previously conducted coastal work on behalf of the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

 

70% Path works

VG103

Llantwit Beach - Legal Diversion onto walked route

 

VG104

Cwm Colhuw - Surface improvements

 

VG015

Gilestone - Diversion Order and ground works

 

VG106

Rhoose Point - Surface improvements

 

VG107

Little Island & Nell’s Point/Barry Island - Legal creation

 

VG108

Sully - Move stone stiles to safer location

 

VG110

Bay Caravan Park - Legal diversion onto walked line

 

VG204

Porthkerry bulwalks surface improvements

70% Path works total

 

 

100% Path works

VG101

Ogmore - Construction of Off Road Route

SD - Storm damage works

VG201SD

Monknash - set back of bridge/culvert following storms

 

VG202SD

West of Summerhouse - rollback following cliff fall

 

VG203SD

East of Summerhouse - rollback of path from clifftop.

 

Mr. Teague confirmed that he had met with the three participating Local Authorities with a view to driving the programme forward.  It was further confirmed that Tricia Cottnam’s workload was directed by a Steering Group in conjunction with Natural Resources Wales and her time would be spread across the Local Authorities involved in the Steering Group.  Projects would be front-loaded in Monmouthshire for the next few months, following which she would move over to the Vale of Glamorgan.   It was confirmed that this post was directly funded by Natural Resources Wales.

 

(g)       Rural Development Plan Projects Update -

 

Mr. Teague informed the Forum that the largest project was currently the bridleways project in the Penllyn Estate, the deadline for which was September 2014.  They were currently going out to tender and it was confirmed that the landowner was in agreement with the proposals.  The project would mean a 40% increase in bridleways across the Vale of Glamorgan and would result in approximately an additional 12kms of bridleways.

 

Mr. Teague confirmed that they were currently awaiting the order for Cross Common, the contracts were in place and work would begin shortly.  He confirmed that the path at The Herbert’s had been well received and was a safer route to the school. 

 

The Chairman advised that consideration would be given to viewing the Penllyn Bridleway Works Project in conjunction with the next meeting of the Forum.

 

(h)        Consultation on Changes to Cross Compliance from 2015 -

 

A short summary paper on Cross Compliance Consultation was circulated at the meeting.  The Welsh Government had released a consultation document for consideration of particulars to be included in forthcoming Cross Compliance arrangements for the Single Payment Scheme (known as Direct Payments in 2015) and for Rural Development Payment Support. 

 

The consultation included a specific question as to whether to allow Cross Compliance to be expanded to include certain aspects of Public Rights of Way management.  The proposals were broader than, and should be distinguished from, the elements of the higher level Glastir scheme upon which the LAF had previously been consulted. 

 

Landowners and occupiers had a number of statutory responsibilities relating to public rights of way, including the provision and maintenance of furniture (gates and stiles) and keeping paths free from overhanging vegetation.

 

In England public rights of way were currently included under cross compliance and were subject to the requirements to keep land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC8).  To date Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had not included public rights of way in their respective cross compliance regimes.

 

The Welsh Government was looking at ways to modernise and simplify legislation on public rights of way for the benefit of landowners, users and local authorities.  One of the areas it was considering for the future was the digitisation of the definitive maps.  Every local authority had digitised working copies of the maps but the statutory definitive maps remained in hard copy format.  A requirement to standardise maps to a regulated electronic format should provide more consistent up to date information for public use of paths across Wales. 

 

In the future, once this was achieved, the Welsh Government would consider including maintenance of Public Rights of Way under cross compliance in Wales.

 

Local authorities had primary responsibility for the maintenance of paths and for ensuring that they remain unobstructed.  They worked closely with landowners and occupiers to safeguard access on public paths in their areas.

 

The public expected that rights of way were properly protected and maintained and that land managers fulfilled their statutory obligations in this area.  Including Public Rights of Way in cross compliance would support local authorities in their enforcement role and make a link to farmers’ wider land management responsibilities and, where relevant, the public funding they received.

 

The Forum was requested to specifically consider a response to question 12 of the consultation document, which requested their views on the above potential approach to future developments in relation to Public Rights of Way. The Forum was also provided with discussion topics and content in relation to this question, which covered the digitisation of the Definitive Map, maintenance of public rights of way and existing enforcement arrangements.

 

The draft response from Bridgend County Borough Council was tabled at the meeting.  Mr. Teague informed the Forum that there were three main areas that should be addressed in the Vale of Glamorgan’s response to question 12 of the consultation.  These were the digitisation of the Definitive Map, landowners’ responsibility to maintain structures on their land, and the effect that the inclusion of maintenance would have on the payment/grants, for example, the cost of kissing gates.  Mr. Teague also stated that there were concerns with regards to how the approach to cross compliance would affect the maintenance of public rights of way and enforcement issues.

 

Mr. McMillan asked whether one landowner could sign up to cross compliance but others not and in response Mr. Teague stated that, as cross compliance was linked to basic grants, most farms would be within the scheme in some way or another and there would also be a register which was probably quite detailed.  Mr. McMillan also asked whether the Public Rights of Way Team would need access to the register and Mr. Teague informed him that the Rural Payments Agency visited farms and made arrangements between the farms and the Inspectorate with regard to cross compliance.  He further informed the Forum that the team could take enforcement action against landowners; however stopping their grants was a more powerful tool. 

Mr. Dunn stated that local authorities would not get involved in this type of action, a sample of farms would be inspected on behalf of the European Commission and if breaches were discovered a percentage of the payments would be withheld.

 

The Chairman expressed the view that there were also issues around standardisation.  In response, Mr. Teague stated that this could be included within the consultation response and confirmed that there were British standards with regard to public rights of way furniture and there was a statutory duty on landowners to maintain the landscape, footpaths and furniture on their land. 

 

Following discussion of the draft response from Bridgend County Borough Council, views were expressed to support this response.  Mr. Teague stated that the Vale of Glamorgan Council had a good Digitised Map which had been formulated over the last two to three years which had been quality checked and confirmed that the production of a Definitive Digitised Map would require a change in law.  Mr. Teague stated that one of the benefits of a Digitised Working Map was that changes due to amending orders could be incorporated immediately into it and also considered how the Definitive Map would interact with cross compliance issues. 

 

Following discussion of the Welsh Government Draft Compliance Proposals, it was agreed that the Secretary would formulate and submit a response to the Consultation for the Vale of Glamorgan Local Access Forum based on their discussions which would address the issues of the maintenance of public rights of way, enforcement arrangements and the digitisation of the Definitive Map.

 

(i)         Written Statement by the Welsh Government on Access and Outdoor Recreation -

 

The Forum received a statement from Welsh Government on Access and Outdoor Recreation from John Griffiths, AM, Minister for Culture and Sport.

 

The Chairman expressed a view that the Local Access Forum would be interested in getting involved with the updated guidance on the Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP). 

 

Mr. Dunn expressed the view that the statement was quite positive and was encouraged that the Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) was still in place at 2017, however, was disappointed that there was no plan to pursue primary legislation in this Assembly term.