Originally set up in in 2008 by Natural England and now managed by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the SWG members represent the three interest groups of landowners, local authorities and public access users. Its original purpose has evolved into work to complete outstanding legislative and procedural reforms in public rights of way law.
Carol Ramsden is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Rights of Way and Countryside Access Management and has specialised in public rights of way law for over 30 years. In her role as Consultant at Birketts, she has advised clients on a wide variety of challenges created by the complex and often archaic nature of public rights of way legislation.
Carol Ramsden, Consultant at Birketts, said: “I am delighted to have been appointed to the Stakeholder Working Group, and looking forward to using my first-hand experience of the problems that can arise from public access to private land, especially my work securing changes to the public rights of way network. The local authorities and user groups are well represented on the SWG and I will help to add further strength to the landowner voice on these matters.”
Earlier in the year Defra announced that the implementation of a ‘cut-off’ date of 1 January 2026 for the addition of unrecorded historic public rights of way to Definitive Maps and Statements, will not go ahead. This decision by Defra has caused great concern to landowners, leaving them vulnerable to the continued recording of public rights of way over their land, based only on historic evidence of the existence of routes.
In the same announcement, Defra confirmed its commitment to implementing other outstanding legislation, including a landowner ‘Right to Apply’ for a public path diversion or extinguishment order. At present some local authorities refuse to accept any applications and many others only have very limited resource to deal with them in a timely fashion. Guidance to local authorities on the weight that is to be attached to the impact of a route on a private dwelling or a working farmyard is also due to be implemented.
Sophie Dwerryhouse, National Access Adviser at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), said: “I am delighted that Carol has joined our group on the SWG. It is important that we are able to match the input from local authorities and the user group representatives, and her knowledge and experience will be invaluable. We must press for the outstanding provisions to be fully implemented for landowners to have a fair deal from the revision package – which started with the introduction of increased public access to private land with a right to access mountain, moor, heath and down land in 2000.”
Carol added: “The decision not to implement the ‘cut off’ was a major blow to landowners but there is still good news relating to the ‘right to apply’ and the new guidance. My appointment to the SWG means I can help get this legislation across the line.”
Birketts has a well-known national profile for its work in public access, providing specialist expertise to clients nationwide in all matters relating to public rights of way and access, and the related subjects of town and village greens and common land.
Photo Caption: Carol Ramsden, Consultant, Birketts. Fellow of the Institute of Public Rights of Way and Countryside Access Management (Credit: Birketts)