Description of the ROWIP Area
Examples of how authorities described their ROWIP area are given below :
Bedfordshire is the smallest "shire" county in England and benefits from a surprisingly diverse range of landscape types. These include nationally important chalk downland landscapes and extensive clay vales. The Great Ouse and Ivel river valleys greatly influence the local distinctiveness where they flow through the farmland of north and east Bedfordshire.
The chalk hills of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are an important area in the south of the county and include two national nature reserves. They provide a stunning backdrop to the large urban centres of Luton and Dunstable and are enjoyed by many of their 200,000 inhabitants.
The gently rolling landscape of the Greensand Ridge in Mid Bedfordshire has much of the county's woodland cover and remaining areas of locally rare heathland.
The extensive clay vale found in north Bedfordshire is characterised by the remains of fragments of ancient woodland linked by historic byways in an otherwise intensively farmed landscape on heavy soils.
The mineral workings and landfill of the Marston Vale and around Leighton Buzzard with their associated industrial landscapes dominate large parts of mid west Bedfordshire. This area is at the heart of the Forest of Marston Vale which is one of 12 nationally important Community Forest projects working to improve the quality of the environment in partnership with local landowners, businesses and communities.
Farmland makes up about 75% of Bedfordshire and 44% of this is of very high quality (Grade 1 and 2) particularly in the north and east of the county. This can be characterised as mostly arable farming on the clay in the north with market gardening on the alluvial soils in the east.
These different landscape areas make up the "great outdoors" countryside resource which is enjoyed by the people of Bedfordshire and beyond.
Bedfordshire is already located in an area of above average population growth and has been identified in the ODPM report "Sustainable communities" as an area for significant development in the future particularly north of Luton and in the Marston Vale close to Bedford. The current population of around 377,000 people live in a small county covering some 119,200 hectares. Three fifths of these people live in the main urban centres and the rest in 112 rural parishes. The County's location at the boundary of the South East and East Anglia means that some 27 million people live within 2 hours of the Bedfordshire countryside by road.
There is clearly going to be an increased demand for outdoor access in the future as a result of the expanded population which in turn will bring with it new demands and pressures on the remaining countryside. The current rights of way network and open spaces will have to be carefully integrated within new development areas. There will no doubt be many opportunities to create new routes and open spaces in the new developments to meet the future needs of the people living and working there.
Our ROWIP has been produced recognising that Cheshire is a unique county. We have: -
- A rural county, supporting the greatest concentration of dairy farming in the UK
- A landscape shaped by an industrial heritage, which stretches back to Roman times
- More waterways than any other English county.
Our population is also unique; we are: -
- Concentrated in Greater Chester, Ellesmere Port, Crewe and Macclesfield, but also in market towns, villages and hamlets
- Diverse in terms of economic affluence, representing extremes at both ends of the spectrum
- Ageing more quickly than in other parts of the country.
Extract from ROWIP
6 Spirit of Cambridgeshire
With no National Parks, no Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, no National Trails, no Mountain/Moor/Heath or Down in the sense of 'Open Country', no Forest Parks and no coastline, Cambridgeshire is often accused of being flat and boring. In this section we try to bring out what is distinctive about our county, and why in the absence of other access provision, improving the rights of way network is uniquely important to the people of Cambridgeshire as the county moves into the 21st century.
With a population of 552,655 (2001 census) and an area of 3054km2, current day Cambridgeshire is one of the less densely populated counties in England, albeit one of the most rapidly expanding (21.3% population increase 1991-2001). With 278 parishes, a similar number of villages, several market towns, an emerging new town, one small city (population 108,879) and another growing from a very small base, most of the county's population nevertheless lives in the more substantial settlements. Only a minority of the population lives in the rural and mostly arable countryside. The demand for countryside access is increased by the presence of the Peterborough Unitary Authority immediately to the North and by nearby towns in neighbouring authorities (see Map 2). The county has a wide range of age groups with different service needs, but has low ethnic diversity by national standards. The county is prosperous with high levels of employment; unemployment was 1.7% in March 2001. The county is also a major transport corridor with a number of key road and rail links, while Stansted airport is close to the county boundary.
6.2 Blue on the Map
A distinctive feature of the low-lying Cambridgeshire landscape is the extensive river and drainage network, often providing ribbons of natural land in an otherwise arable landscape. A problem peculiar to the otherwise valuable riverside path network is the 'missing link' due to the original towpath users boating horses over water barriers. A related problem is the discontinuance of historic river ferries. New and replacement bridges are necessarily expensive, given the need to preserve the navigation headroom and avoid impeding the floodplains.
6.3 Bricks and Tarmac
The workings of the Town and Country Planning Act have often been unkind to the network, with many post-war developments still blocking the line of definitive routes. Communication between planning and highway authorities is improving, but more still needs to be done to retain and improve key links in the path network. Central government requires significant development in Cambridgeshire, with the London-Stansted-Cambridge growth corridor recently having been extended to cover the whole county plus Peterborough. A total of 57,000 new houses are required, and while small on a national scale, this number will have a significant effect on a generally rural county.
The new villages at Cambourne provide an example of generally constructive partnership between developers and the RoW team, including a perimeter bridleway and a managed relationship between haul roads and rights of way during construction. These principles are currently being further developed in the planning of the proposed new town at Northstowe. Alternative methods of funding will need to be identified in order to ensure adequate access provision for the increasing population. Past County and Highways Agency (HA) road construction has significantly compromised RoW network connectivity, as have railway level crossing closures justified by safety but not replaced by bridges. Recent County road improvement plans such as the Papworth bypass have given better consideration to RoW and soft user requirements. Although the HA consulted during the planning of the A1M, the road as built unfortunately represents a missed opportunity. The proposed A14 improvements therefore represent a significant opportunity for users of the RoW network. The planning of the Cambridge to Huntingdon Guided Busway supported in the 2003 Local Transport Plan settlement has made a positive contribution to the RoW network with most of the maintenance track being made available as a dedicated bridleway.
6.4 Digging and filling holes
As a lowland county, Cambridgeshire has nationally significant reserves of sand and gravel. Unfortunately, these often lie in attractive areas of water meadows and riverside walks. While quarries have in the past significantly compromised Rights of Way while extraction is being undertaken and sometimes after, more recent schemes have accommodated improved public access and conservation interest in the restored landscape plans while minimising impact during extraction. For instance, 10km of new paths have been created at Needingworth. While exhausted quarries can be attractive for disposing of waste in landfill, land restored after landfill can be unavailable for countryside access for safety reasons. Careful attention needs to be paid to future aggregate extraction planning proposals and associated landfill to minimise landscape damage and maximise the opportunities presented when schemes are presented to meet national quotas.
6.5 Land management
Despite the protected status of RoWs, conflicts over land use cause continuing problems. The 1980 Highways Act allows barriers to be sanctioned by the Highway Authority for stock control and in the interest of public safety, but problems caused by fly-tipping, illegal access by motor vehicles and unauthorised travellers encampments are creating an increased demand for additional barriers in the countryside. Where unauthorised barriers are erected and legitimate users obstructed, conflict can arise. Power and communications utilities have powers to erect poles and stay wires on public highways, including rights of way, without consultation. Most poles are sensitively located, but some can present a significant blockage on narrower footpaths and bridleways. Stay wires can present a particular hazard to horse riders. Managing RoWs which cross SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) and County Wildlife Sites requires additional planning and management effort, in order to protect fragile habitats and sensitive species, while IDB (Internal Drainage Board) and Environment Agency river maintenance, a quintessentially Cambridgeshire problem, can restrict new path routing and require temporary path closures. Generally, a range of public bodies may need to be consulted for even minor works, and the consequent delays can complicate work and add costs.
6.6 Droves and Droveways
A feature of the Cambridgeshire Fen landscape is the drove, typically laid out in the Parliamentary Inclosures to give access from villages on higher ground to fields on the newly drained fenland. In the summer these are often attractive wide grassy corridors in an arable landscape, but in winter they can degenerate into a morass with heavy agricultural use. This is often not helped by lack of maintenance of drainage ditches. Landowners are increasingly seeking to surface droves, but often with inappropriate material, such as bricks, which can cause problems to horses. Agricultural encroachment in places reduces the drove width available to users. Future management needs to consider all uses of the droves, noting that some are rights of way, some are commons and some currently have no public access rights. Away from the Fen, additional wide droveways once provided alternatives to the turnpikes for cattle being driven to Smithfield. Of these, the best survival is probably the Bullock Road in Hunts, currently the subject of a modest improvement programme.
6.7 The Sport of Kings
A distinctive feature of the Cambridgeshire/Suffolk border associated with Newmarket is the increasing amount of land managed for the horse racing industry. There are concerns about the effect of public access when dogs are not kept under control, and horse gallops with soft surfaces have provoked complaints due to the difficulty of crossing them with wheelchairs. Managing access through areas fenced as horse paddocks without endangering valuable bloodstock can prove a difficult compromise to strike.
Stiles are seen as a potential injury risk for the horses, but kissing gates are often not favoured either. Confining paths between fences is unattractive, and can cause problems with managing resultant surface vegetation growth.
6.8 Dark Age Earthwork
At one time four defensive dykes crossed the line of the A11 to separate the Midlands from East Anglia. Two of these substantially survive today - Devil's Dyke and Fleam Dyke. Though shorter and less well known than Offa's Dyke, Devil's Dyke in particular represents an impressive survival from the Dark Ages on a scale larger than that to be found even in the Welsh Marches, and is currently the subject of a five-year restoration project. The management of both dykes has to balance access, heritage and conservation, each being triply designated as right of way, ancient monument and SSSI. The time needed for consulting on the heritage and conservation issues involved in multiple interest sites has an impact on access management, requiring more forward planning, and in some cases, additional resources for surveys and technical solutions to protect all interests. Resolution of management conflicts should provide a model for elsewhere in the county.
6.9 Our own land
Cambridgeshire has the largest County Farm Estate in England, much dating from the aftermath of the First World War. The estate has more than 300 tenant farmers working over 13,500 hectares of land. Most of the farms are currently arable, but the Estate has a policy to encourage tenants to diversify their business and the estate is home to farm shops, horse liveries, sheep dairying and a children's nursery. The Estate encourages tenants to provide public access, often through the DEFRA support schemes. The land is managed to maximise commercial value, and a balance has to be struck between improving access and the effect on working or disposing of the land. However, the Estate does provide a significant opportunity both to support local agriculture and to provide environmental and access enhancements. Sites of public archaeological interest such as Stonea Camp are managed in partnership with the County Archaeological Service, with extensive interpretation and publicity.
6.10 Flying Fortresses and Tin Hats
During the Second World War, many new airfields were constructed in Cambridgeshire as with much of Eastern England. Rights of Way that were extinguished when bases were operational have often not been restored when the land was returned to agriculture in time of peace. At the same time, the extension of runways and the building of weapons storage facilities to accommodate Cold War RAF and USAF deployments caused further network fragmentation. The continuing operation of some military facilities, e.g. RAF Wyton, Bassingbourne Barracks and Barton Road Rifle Range, still presents obstructions to users of the Rights of Way network due to security and safety considerations. Recent consultation by the Army Training Estate may lead to improvements in access in these areas.
6.11 Analysis by Parish
An analysis of parish countryside access provision has been undertaken. This considers many parameters including population, area, existing rights of way, woodland and rivers, and seeks to score parishes according to facilities. Scoring criteria are currently being developed. Communities that are especially badly served may thereby be identified. This information is too large for inclusion in this document and may be seen on request. This work should help inform more detailed decisions about competing candidates for improvements at parish level, once more strategic priorities have been established.
Extract from ROWIP - Background
Since the 1960s, the population of Northamptonshire has increased by 50% to 600,000 residents. It remains a predominantly rural county but is interspersed with several large and small towns. Northamptonshire is officially in the East Midlands region but uniquely, borders three other economic regions (Eastern England, the South-East and West Midlands) with whom it shares many common features.
The Northamptonshire economy consistently grows well above the national average. The traditional industries of boot and shoe manufacturing, steel production and agriculture have now been largely replaced by the service, technology, engineering and distribution sectors.
In terms of settlement patterns, the county can be divided into two areas. Northampton itself, (population, 200,000) dominates the western end of the county. The other towns servicing this area are Daventry, Towcester and Brackley. The eastern area of the county is closely associated with the A6 corridor and the Midland Mainline railway. The smaller A6 towns include Rushden, Higham Ferrers, Irthlingborough, Finedon, Burton Latimer, Rothwell and Desborough. Wellingborough and Kettering are the principal population centres in the area with Corby also being an important residential centre.
Northamptonshire has a significant natural heritage with important areas in the western uplands and the Nene Valley. Its man-made heritage can be seen in the limestone villages at either end and the sandstone villages in the Northampton area. Important contributions are also made by the small industrial towns and the Grand Union Canal. Northamptonshire provides some tourist attractions, in particular Silverstone motor racing circuit, a number of stately homes, Towcester Racecourse and Stoke Bruerne.
There are two mainline railways through the county - Northampton sits on a loop of the West Coast Main Line and Wellingborough and Kettering are on the Midland Mainline. Road transport has developed greatly in the county over the decades, particularly strategic routes such as the M1, A5, A14, A43 and A45.