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London Rambling

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Urban Rights of Way

Did you think that the Ramblers, and walkers, are only interested in the big wide open doors, beautiful countryside, or spectacular perspectives?

Well, you'd be part right. We are champions of the countryside and the paths and trails (known in the jargon as Rights of Way ROW) that custom, practice, and the law has established. In most of rural England Wales these paths are protected by law, though we still have a job to protect them against depradation and delapidation - big words but essentially this is poor or no maintenance and clearing, and attempts to close them.

Elsewhere, in areas such as London, there is no such protection by the law. A 'quirk' of recent history that established the framework of legal protection left much of the built up urban areas without any similar basis. That may have been 'cos it was thought that established streets - highways in the jargon that includes the carriageway (the road to you and me) and the footway (pavement) - passages, paths, ginnels, vennels, courts ...... you name it somewhere there's a path close to you that is a Public Right of Way - are so bleedin' obvious and hard that they didn't need protection. They are, after all, in the jargon highways maintainable at the public expense.

Well, again you'd be part right. That hasn't stopped though development that has 'stopped up' these paths, or action by local authorities (and here we're talking of the 12 Inner London Boroughs, the City of London, and Transport for London) to 'gate' paths and shortcuts, and the pace is accelerating.

In some cases the changes may well be sensible and practical. In others local ways have served people well for decades if not centuries, and there's no good reason to block them, or stop them being open as public rights of way.

Just a few examples:

Brydges Place, WC2

This spur or passageway, following a planning consent that should not have been given in 2000, is doored or gated, and frequently used as a parking garage though has been claimed since at least c. 1905 as public highway.

Miles Place, NW1

This shortcut connects several large estates with local amenities, such as a park, a school and pubs and shops on Penfold Street, and beyond to the Edgware Road.  The path has been unofficially blocked for more than a year and developers are building four new properties near by and seeking to close the path, in spite of a report to the council cabinet members on the 4th of July 2012 stating that the gating of Miles Place "does not fit all of the criteria".

See the Ramblers submission to the council here.