King John’s Path, Holywood

Posted on April 5th, 2012 · Posted in Latest News

King John’s Path,Holywood (an asserted public right of way,which has been obstructed by the erection of gates.)-from Andrew Muir

I have received an update from North Down Borough Council. Will continue to press for action.

The Solicitor has now passed seven signed affidavits to Council’s appointed Barrister in this case. This is sufficient for her to move to draft proceedings, to be stamped by the Court (Chancery Division) and subsequently to be served on the landowner in question; this process is happening at present and should be completed within several weeks. Five more affidavits are outstanding but these are not required to proceed.It is our intention, regardless of whether the landowner subsequently removes the fencing, to proceed to have this case heard in court, as he has shown that he is capable of going back on his word previously. If the court upholds Council’s assertion that this is indeed a Public Right of Way (PROW), and the landowner subsequently blocks the route again, further proceedings would then be drafted to bring him before the court for contempt.

Out of interest his legal advisors have been in touch with our solicitor only today and discussions are ongoing. I believe THEY may seek to resolve the matter without going to court. Regardless, my intention is to proceed with this one to have the PROW asserted in law .I will update you all further in due course.

Public Path Extinguishment Order

Public Right of Way at Dog Kennel Lane leading from Upper Damolly to Kenard Villas in Newry

Chairman, Alan McFarland attended this meeting on Thurs 10th June and gave evidence for objectors on behalf of UFRC. He had the opportunity to challenge evidence of some of those supporting the application. The Inspector, Roy Hickey, posed searching questions and displayed authority in subject matter resulting in a thorough inquiry. All parties had the opportunity to put points and evidence on an equal footing.

UFRC was concerned with the cavalier attitude of the parties which blocked this Public Right of Way and the manner in which the Council attempted to extinguish the path after the event. A number of legal irregularities raised were poorly answered as council planning officials and contractors were not represented.

The developer who constructed playing fields over part of the path was represented by Paul Shevlin of Thompson McClure Solicitors, Belfast. The developers have built a super new ‘academic village’ that the PROW cuts in two if not blocked by the school fencing, erected on school security and pupil safety grounds.

Some residents supported the extinguishing order on the basis of anti social elements that used the previously uncared for and discarded path.

However the challenge to the haphazard and ‘expedient’ manner behind the Extinguishment request , was vindicated when it emerged that other property owners in the area may lose vital access rights if PROW status is removed. Likewise, property owners were reminded that police public order enforcement powers and legislation are based on persons being in a ‘public place’.

Without the PROW, congregation and disorder is a matter of the land owner. It was also pointed out that new maintained paths in other urban areas have seen a decline in anti social behaviour and congregation of youths.
Walkers and advocates of proper procedures and principles on PROW’s, are indebted to Newry and Mourne councillors, Cairan Mussen and Tony Williamson, who gave evidence opposing the decision on grounds of principal not dissimilar from those held by the UFRC. UFRC member Cahal King, submitted results of a survey he undertook in the area and gave evidence of walkers using the path.

Alan accompanied the Inspector to a final site meeting at the end of the inquiry hearing.

To summarize, the rationale behind the school fencing is reasonable, but it can be argued that a fenced path could be reinstated where the two schools are joined by pitches and it is probable that it would be used by residents from both Kenard Villas and Damolly for recreational use.

The Inspector cannot alter or amend the application, merely endorse or refuse it and his report will appear in due course. If the Inspector refuses the application, it is likely that the school will look for an amendment to include the section taken over by the school.

In such eventuality, the Executive will have to decide whether to pursue pressure on the council to reinstate the path in full through the grounds or, run with what would be, in effect a closure as the size of the joint schools acreage does not offer a circular route.

”The Inspector has refused to support Newry & Mourne District Council’s Public Right of Way Extinguishment Order. Thus matters return to the Council and its response is awaited.”