3. Review of Rights of Way Improvement Plans: Guidance to Local Highway Authorities in Wales: Consultation Draft –
In May last year the then Minister for Culture and Sport made it clear that Local Authorities would be required to revise the Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) for their area and that Welsh Government (WG) would issue Statutory Guidance to support this.
The Vale of Glamorgan’s ROWIP was published in November 2007 and should therefore be republished before November 2017
Natural Resources Wales(NRW) had been asked to carry out targeted consultation with key stakeholders including Local Access Forums. This was being delivered through the following:
- production of Draft Guidance which had been produced with input from the ROWIP Guidance Review Working Group (which comprised Local Authority and national park representatives, WG and NRW staff)
- issuing the Draft Guidance by e-mail for targeted Consultation: the consultation period ran until 27th November, 2015
- supporting a National Access Forum subgroup meeting that was held on 2nd November, 2015.
Responses made would be collated and considered by NRW and the Working Group before the Draft Guidance was finalised and NRW advice issued to WG by the end of February 2016.
The Draft ROWIP Guidance revised guidance issued in December 2002 which supported the introduction of the first ROWIPs. The draft covered the following areas:
- Context and Scope of ROWIPs
- Developing a New ROWIP
- Preparing the New Assessment
- Preparing the New Statement of Action
- Developing and Renewing Delivery Strategies
- Publicising and Publishing the ROWIP
- Implementing the ROWIP.
The guidance was updated to account for recent legislative changes, including sections incorporating:
- The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015
- The Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013
- The Equality Act 2010.
A significant area of change was in acknowledging feedback to make ROWIPs more flexible and responsive to changing circumstances.
As a result the draft guidance introduced ‘Delivery Statements’ encouraging such statements to be annexed to the main plan. Delivery statements were intended to comprise focused work plans that were linked to the ROWIP objectives but sat outside of the main plan. This allowed them to be reviewed and adapted periodically without the need to republish the whole plan.
Other matters considered within the guidance included the possibility of jointly producing ROWIPs with neighbouring Authorities, which might have relevance in the light of any prospective local government reorganisation. The prospect of establishing an index of authorised structures was also raised.
Mr. Teague considered there to be a potential role for the LAF in terms of the development and review of a Delivery Statement.
Mr. Coleman considered the scope of the consultation document to be fairly prescriptive in terms of what was potentially going to be required and he asked what level of resources Mr. Teague envisaged (if any) were likely to be made available to Authorities. Given the statutory requirement under ROWIP legislation, Authorities were being told that they would be unable to use, for example, ROWIP grants (as Local Authorities were already being paid to undertake the statutory duty). Mr. Teague considered there might be a possibility of being able to use maintenance funding. Nevertheless, Mr. Coleman suggested that the process would represent a significant commitment for a small team of officers.
Mr. Traherne asked whether the new ROWIP, once developed, would in fact be hugely different from the existing version. Mr. Teague responded that there were likely to be a lot of similarities.
Mr. Pittard commented that similar issues had been raised within the Bridgend Local Access Forum. He commented that he had seen no reference to the linking of the ROWIP process to potential new Local Authority structures currently being aired.
Responding to a question as to the position regarding the ROWIP process in the event of Local Government Reorganisation taking place, Mr. Teague alluded to the potential difficulties in terms of attempting to undertake the exercise on a cross-boundary basis (for example, in terms of Public Path Orders). There was a general consensus amongst Members of the Forum in terms of recording concern regarding the potential resourcing of such a programme and also the fact that Members considered it would be more prudent to await the outcome of any Local Government reorganisation exercise before the production of a new ROWIP became a statutory requirement.
Mr. Teague considered the Council was likely to receive ROWIP grant funding for 2016/17 and, as such, he confirmed he would prefer to progress the ROWIP process as a separate entity (i.e. and not to consider any form of joint approach with another Authority).
AGREED – T H A T the Forum’s response to the Consultation document include:
- Expressing concern that sufficient resources should be made available for the assessment and publication of new ROWIPs. Whilst funding was previously being made available, the pressure on budgets was such that undertaking the production of new ROWIPs without additional resources would simply displace maintenance or other work;
- The view of the Forum that the exercise generally and consideration of, for example, production of joint ROWIPs, would be capable of being considered more meaningfully after the Welsh Assembly elections in May 2017 and once greater clarity regarding local government reorganisation existed;
- The Forum considers the process for conducting the assessment to be onerous and, as above, likely to be resource intensive. The Forum requests that the consultation and assessment requirements be relaxed in order to reflect the review and update of the previous ROWIP. It was appreciated that this might require changes to primary legislation.