When the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill was going through parliament, with its pernicious provisions for gating orders on public paths, ministers said it would only be used in urban areas, where crime and anti-social behaviour were a problem. The bill became the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, with no such safeguard included.
However, it has largely been used in urban areas, often to the detriment of path users and the benefit of adjoining property owners who have been able to incorporate gated routes into their gardens.
I was dismayed and puzzled to receive a proposal for a gating order from Warwickshire County Council on Tinkers’ Lane, Lapworth. This unclassified road runs from the busy A3400 Stratford Road, about a mile south of the M40 junction 16 (close to its junction with the M42). It goes eastward to join Hole House Lane which links with Wheatsheaf Lane in a triangle.
As you can see from the map, if Tinkers’ Lane was to be closed to walkers, riders and cyclists, they would be forced onto the other narrow lanes and the unpleasant A3400 where traffic whizzes past.
Tinkers’ Lane is an attractive route and has an ancient feel about it. It heads purposefully away from the A3400 with pleasant views through the hedges to the side.
However, it is being rutted by vehicles, and that is perhaps the problem the council is trying to address.
At the junction of Tinkers’ Lane and Hole House Lane, opposite Hole House Farm, there are signs discouraging vehicles.
A gating order is not the remedy for abuse by vehicles. That should be addressed by the police. And it’s unreasonable that all users should suffer from such a draconian measure. Before making a gating order the council would have to produce evidence of crime and anti-social behaviour. So far it has produced none.
In any case, the lane is crossed by three public footpaths so gating would be pointless.
My story about this was published in the Stratford Herald on 17 July. A week later the paper published a letter from Tom Archer of Bidford, Warwickshire, who wrote:
Your report on Warwickshire County Council’s proposal to gate Tinkers’ Lane in Lapworth omits the fact that this route is a minor public road and as such has vehicular rights which would be seriously compromised by the installation of a locked gate.
The council has provided no evidence of anti-social behaviour on this route, which raises the question of why they would even consider taking such action bearing in mind the cost and other outstanding priorities.
With a recent report that the speed cameras near Alcester generate the greatest revenue via speeding fines, perhaps they should look to gating the A435 and other similar sites first and cease their apparent agenda to destroy our historic network of minor public highways to the detriment of the local community.
Well said, Tom. The Open Spaces Society and Ramblers have objected to the proposal and we hope that the county council will not tinker with Tinkers’ Lane.