A Longridge man who has spent two years trying to get one of the town’s public footpaths recognised says he would encourage others to make the same effort he has – before “local history disappears”.
Danny Lovatt began working to get the path added to the so-called “definitive map” of rights of way when it was blocked off by a resident several years ago.
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Although the narrow passageway off Wellbrow Drive has since been opened up and largely cleared of overgrowth, it is yet to be formally acknowledged as a public footpath by officers at Lancashire County Council.
“It seems like they’ve got to cross the i’s and dot the t’s – twice,” Danny says.
“You have got to get umpteen forms to fill in and then notices have to be put up in the area – but I haven’t given up yet.”
The process of getting a footpath or bridleway recognised relies on finding historical evidence that a right of way previously existed at the location. That can involve scouring old maps to prove that the routes should be recognised as being open to the public.
Although the path which Danny has been campaigning to preserve has practical uses for him and his neighbours, he says that there is a historical importance to all such routes.
“I don’t see why part of Longridge’s past should be able to be cut off – it was there before these houses were even built. The coal men and binmen used to go down there.
“I don’t want somebody to be able to come long and cut it off completely. A lot of history is going out through the window and it shouldn’t be like that.
“There used to be a bridleway at the bottom of my garden and when they built an estate here, they just cut it off. If anybody came along now and said they wanted it opening again, it’d be nigh on impossible.
“So while these things are there we should be preserving them,” Danny adds.
The clock is ticking down to a national deadline in 2026 when any rights of way which existed before 1949 – but have not been recorded since – will be lost.
Lancashire County Council has been working to make the historical maps on which rights of way evidence rests more readily available.
Many of the physical maps are held at the national archives at Kew in Surrey, along with some at council offices in Lancashire. But the authority is working on a collaboration to get more of them added to an online archive.
David Goode, public rights of way manager for Lancashire County Council, acknowledged that the process of getting footpaths added to the definitive map can be lengthy.
“The process for determining applications is complex, particularly if a final decision needs to be made by the national Planning Inspectorate. We recognise that this is an important issue and have improved our turnaround despite a slight increase in the number of applications.
“This is due to a number of factors, including the efforts of our small but experienced team, better collaboration between teams, and advice to applicants resulting in higher quality applications which make them quicker and easier to process.
“We’re involved in an ongoing joint project with other organisations such as the Britsh Horse Society to make historical maps available online so that people can see them without having to make an appointment to come into our archives to see them in paper form. The archives already have some relevant material online and that is a good place to start,” Mr Goode added.
Danny’s advice to anybody interested in preserving paths in Lancashire is to be prepared “to do a lot of work and be patient”.
“I’d happily give people advice about what to do – it’s not like making a phone call and then sitting back, I can tell them that much,” he laughs.
So keen is he to get others involved, Danny is inviting people who want advice on getting rights of way recognised to call him directly on 01772 782848.