9.4 Arrangements for maintaining Open Space not in HDC control

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Open Spaces Strategy

Representation ID: 1228

Received: 21/10/2015

Respondent: Leicestershire Local Access Forum

Representation Summary:

9.4.2. The management and maintenance of roadside verges is generally undertaken by Leicestershire County Council. Where Harborough District Council identifies stretches providing links between fragmented parts of the bridleway network it will seek to have those verges maintained in a suitable fashion for horse riders with a minimum of signs and furniture.

Full text:

Harborough open space strategy

This response is sent on behalf of the Leicestershire Local Access Forum. The LLAF is an independent statutory body, set up as a result of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) 2000, and exists to represent the interests of everyone concerned with access to the countryside and the public rights of way network including footpaths, bridleways and byways, cycleways and areas of open access.

Section 94 of the CROW act makes it a statutory function of the forum to give advice to a range of bodies, including local authorities, on access issues in respect of land use planning matters. The Secretary of State advised that in particular forums were to focus on the impact and options for minimising possible adverse effects of planning policies and development proposals, in respect of future public access to land. Forums are tasked with identifying and expressing support for opportunities to improve public access, or associated infrastructure, which might be delivered through planning policies or new developments.

As such we would suggest a number of changes to your draft document for consideration. We would however wish to make some general observations.

Open spaces are invaluable as social meeting places, exercise opportunities and benefits for the general health and general wellbeing of the population and maximum advantage should be taken of all such sites. When looking at grass pitches for rugby, hockey, soccer, and cricket etc. these can often provide green space which can be enjoyed for general recreation when not in use for their primary function and golf courses and school playing fields can offer wildlife oases and improve the visual aspect from nearby paths or indeed paths crossing them. Similarly cemeteries and graveyards can provide pleasant environments for taking quiet recreation.

From our experience informal natural and semi natural green spaces serve the needs of more of the population than organised parks and of course cost far less to maintain. To enjoy these there must be an adequate network of paths and cycleways and many paths themselves provide linear open access land especially when fringed by natural growth. Some of the routes within the District should be considered accessible public open space in their own right.

You might wish to consider something in the strategy about the provisions of the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act (2000), which allows additional public access at specified sites in addition to traditional linear footpaths and bridleways. There is nowhere in the district with the elevation to qualify but common land falls within the scope of this act and landowners could be encouraged to dedicate land as open access under the act.

Also we suggest the policy should encourage land owners/managers to provide access to as wide a range of users as possible whilst bearing in mind local sensitivities. There are sizeable blocks of woodland and parkland with very limited access and although they include areas of sensitive habitat we would have thought more people could enjoy at least some elements of them.

Green Corridors are very desirable on many counts not least for allowing wild life to migrate between small green spaces and gardens and the open countryside. Isolated pockets of wildlife reduce the gene pool and lead to local extinctions. They can double up as Greenways providing off road routes to work, school, shops etc and to also allow people to gain access to the wider countryside. To do this effectively they should connect into the wider rights of way network of paths and bridleways rather than onto possibly busy public roads. We would recommend these be dedicated as rights of way to afford them legal protection and in particular would point out that for a cycleway to be granted higher legal status than a footpath it needs to be dedicated as a bridleway. Green Corridors/Ways should whenever possible, be of considerable width. Wildlife needs to be able to enjoy minimal disturbance and pedestrian and other users should ideally be given separate routes wherever possible.

There is also a strong case to be made for linear routes parallel to busy roads so that walkers, horse riders and cyclists can make recreational or short commuter journeys without having to use a busy road. Verges are unfortunately rarely considered either pleasant or safe enough and some separation from the traffic should be the target. Behind the hedge routes are ideal.

You do make comment that improving the rights of way network to ensure that there are appropriate linkages between key open space sites and settlements in the district would improve access and promote more sustainable forms of transport. We would strongly argue that this is possibly the most productive activity available to the district. You cannot create new land and the only privately owned land which might become available as amenity land invariably only happens as part of a large development which itself usually means a loss of farmland. The best way to get more benefit from what is already there is to improve access and links and to an extent, public transport.

If we are to encourage more use however we have to overcome lack of awareness and in some cases the fear of the unknown. A sign saying 'public footpath' is no use to people unaware of what is out there. It needs to say where it goes to improve user confidence in exploring larger sites or following trails.

Suggested Changes

Networks of well cared for and well designed open spaces, linked as far as possible by off-road footpaths, add to the character of places where we want to live, work, play and visit. Green spaces also provide the green infrastructure that enables communities to deal with floods or combat climate change whilst providing wildlife habitats, open spaces for amenity, recreational, sporting facilities and beautiful parks.

3.7.2. The Open Spaces Strategy will seek to ensure that new open space is appropriate, integrated with existing open space, and is accessible to communities. It will also use the planning system to encourage developers to create off road routes within new developments linking to the wider network of rights of way and providing links to existing green spaces and the wider countryside. It will also ensure that open space is managed by the most appropriate and locally accountable organisation. We will seek, through the Open Spaces Strategy, to work proactively with Parish Councils and partner organisations to ensure they have the skills, knowledge and capacity to take responsibility for management of open space.

Green Corridors or Greenways - These include towpaths and walkways alongside canals and riverbanks, cycleways, public footpaths and railway lines that are not used anymore. These sorts of open spaces are mostly used for walking, cycling or horse riding. They can be used for exercise, enjoyment, recreation, or for getting to work or to the shops. They are essential wildlife corridors as isolated colonies of wildlife have reducing gene pools which leads to local extinctions, Because of this new paths should be given as much width as possible with trees and bushes along the route.

9.4.2. The management and maintenance of roadside verges is generally undertaken by Leicestershire County Council. Where Harborough District Council identifies stretches providing links between fragmented parts of the bridleway network it will seek to have those verges maintained in a suitable fashion for horse riders with a minimum of signs and furniture.

Licence agreements of up to 5 years will be determined on application by appropriate groups but wherever possible sole us e licences will be rejected in favour of arrangements where different user groups and the public at large can enjoy the location.

15.2. Green infrastructure can also serve as a green lung, a wildlife corridor and a means by which the population can gain access to nature. It can provide a safe route to work and separation zones and landscaped buffers maintain or create cohesive and identifiable, attractive, vibrant and liveable communities.

15.9. Green space standards are measured in a number of different ways including the extent of bio-diversity, qualitative, quantitative and accessibility. A matrix for measuring the quality of open space will be developed.

15.12. Objective 1: Actions
Continue to work with developers, landscapers and other partners to deliver open space and off road paths, cycleways and bridleways within and through new developments

Seek work with partners and landowners to provide links between open spaces that form a network of 'Greenways' for walking and riding for leisure, exercise or commuting

15.14. Objective 3: To develop a prioritised and strategic approach to open space improvements and that this remains an inclusive process.
Actions to achieve this objective - Consult the local community, ward members, open space users and user groups and other stakeholders using all appropriate methods when delivering improvement projects

16.1. Harborough District's open spaces contain significant amounts of wildlife habitat which support a rich biodiversity. It is important that these habitats are managed sensitively and not isolated to protect and enhance this biodiversity for current and future generations to enjoy. Priorities should include the conservation of natural habitats wherever possible, to increase wildlife value and improve biodiversity on all green spaces

19.2. This is not to suggest that money should be wasted, and teams must ensure that open space and its associated maintenance, delivers good value for money. Natural spaces provide leisure opportunities for more people than any other form of open space and need minimal intervention.

Chapter 20 Aim 6.Open Space supports business and income is maximised
20.1. By providing a range of environmental, health and social benefits, green spaces contribute to the reduction of costs incurred by employers and businesses in addressing health challenges in the work place as well as reducing the burden on the NHS. Green spaces are thus able to provide a number of indirect economic benefits to society. Whilst Officers should look to raise revenue when possible from green spaces it should not be such that access charges deter the use by the general public

21.7. Objective 22: Promote activities for open spaces use that are linked to health benefits
Actions to achieve this objective

Work with user groups (e.g. Ramblers Association, Leicestershire Footpaths Association, Leicestershire Orienteering Club and local walking groups) to encourage involvement by the public of all ages and levels of ability and fitness. Encourage the formation of Walking for Health Groups.

Work with Partners and landowners to create a network of greenways that allow walking and riding, either for leisure, exercise or commuting

Turning to the second part of your consultation on 'Provision for Open Space Sport and Recreation' this is more about methodology and measurement and doo not have much to add. You may however wish to consider:

27 2.2. The 2015 update to this document enables the Council:

To work with communities to identify qualitative shortfalls in open space sport and recreation provision including missing links in walking and riding networks, and address these where possible.