This week the Open Spaces Society had three wins.
First the society helped to save two footpaths across Harrow School grounds. In 2003 the school built tennis courts and all-weather courts across footpath 57, with the connivance of Harrow Council. The other path, 58, runs in a direct route across sports pitches.
Eventually, despite our efforts to make the school reopen the path, the council made diversion orders, moving footpath 57 around the obstructions and footpath 58 in a zigzag around the sports pitches. Both were indirect routes. The Open Spaces Society, Ramblers and local people objected and there was a six-day public inquiry in January and February at which the school was represented by a QC and junior and the council by a barrister.
Loss of views
The inspector, Alison Lea, ruled that the routes should not be diverted, largely because of the loss of views of Harrow-on-the-Hill. She was particularly impressed by Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West, who spoke of the ‘spectacular’ views he enjoyed on his runs along the paths.
Second, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs accepted the Open Spaces Society’s argument that environmental impact assessment (EIA) must be applied to common land, in addition to the need to get consent for works on common land under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. This means, for instance, that if someone wants to erect more than two kilometres of fencing on common land in a national park, he or she must have the proposal screened by Natural England to see if it needs a full EIA. Before this, Defra claimed that consent for works on common land was sufficient. This is important extra protection for commons and Hugh Craddock, the OSS case officer, gets the credit for this.
And third, the society helped to stop seven wind turbines near Llandegley Rocks in Powys. The proposal would have involved four turbines on land which was protected by an inclosure award, as well as the exchange of common land and the destruction of a much-loved beauty spot.