Local authorities can make path orders which, if confirmed, can create, close or divert rights of way. The law says that a local authority must let the public know about proposed changes, and give them the chance to comment or object, so as a member of the public you have a voice. Here are some tips on how to make the best use of your right to object.
Know the process
It's useful to understand where public consultation fits into the process of making a path order, and what influence your objection or representation may have if you decide to submit one.
When a decision-maker (a council officer or committee) looks at your objection or representation they’ll be looking for comments and points that relate to the factors that must be taken into account when deciding whether or not to confirm a path order.
These factors are known as ‘tests’ and are set out in the legislation under which the path order has been made. An effective objection needs to explain why the order does or doesn’t meet the tests, so this should be your main focus.
It may be that the path order is technically flawed e.g. it may have missing parts or omit important details such as the width of a new right of way. It’s important to highlight technical flaws by way of a representation, because if unchecked they can cause serious problems in the future.
Stick to the point
Remember that you’re commenting on a particular path order, not broader policy issues. There’s no point raising irrelevant topics, or using the consultation process as a way of communicating general frustrations about a local authority’s policies, or funding of its rights of way service.
If possible, type your representation, making sure that it’s clearly laid out. If your letter is long number the paragraphs to make it easier for the decision-maker to refer to, and don't forget to state which path order you’re writing about—local authorities often have several on the go at once.
Don’t feel that you have to use long words or make your opinions seem more complicated than they are - just say what you mean.
Keep a copy
Occasionally representations from the public have been mislaid, and there’s always the outside chance that your letter could get lost in the post. For these reasons it’s really important to keep a copy of your representation(s) and any communication you receive in response from the order-making authority.
Late to the debate?
A path order can’t be confirmed and put into effect if there are any outstanding objections or representations, so if you find out about an order late and don’t have enough time to consider it before the 28 day objection period ends you can always lodge a holding objection to buy yourself some time.
Once you’ve had the chance to properly consider the matter you can write again, either to make detailed representations or to withdraw your holding objection.