An informal footpath used to run from the recreation ground in Clayhill Lane to the rear of properties in Curlew Crescent, Ravensdale, Swallowdale and Falcon Way; the other end of the footpath is at the brow of the hill in Clayhill Road. On 26/09/06 the route was closed by a fence erected between the rear of Club Kingswood and the rear of gardens in Curlew Crescent; the fence was erected by Basildon District Council on behalf of Jack Barker Golf. The route was 'claimed' by local residents and the claim was approved by Essex County Council in 2008 and designated Footpath 268. However, appeals against the claim were made by Mr and Mrs McGurk and Jack Barker Golf; Basildon District Council have now submitted evidence in support of the appeal. A Planning Inspector will be holding an enquiry at Vange Community Hall on 15th December 2009 at 10.00 If you wish to give evidence at the enquiry you must make a written submission to the Planning Inspectorate by 17 November 2009.



View of the closed footpath looking from the Recreation Ground (Clay Hill Lane) onto the Golf Course.

When BGC/JBG took over the running of the course in 2006, Basildon Council erected new fencing to the rear of Club Kingswood, which effectively sealed the route which local residents and others had used for many years (see photograph above). However, following complaints to Terry Buck (Public Rights of Way Officer, Essex County Council) and representations by local councillors, two railings were taken out of the fence re-opening the access to the footpath.

However, in the third week in January 2008, the same two railings were re-inserted, thereby closing the fence and access to the footpath yet again.



View of the closed footpath looking from the Golf Course towards the Recreation Ground. The building on the left hand side of the side of the photograph is the rear of Club Kingswood.

At the time of the first closure, George Parker (Curlew Crescent), Bill and Jan Rippon (Hawksway) and Marj Frazer (Sparrows Herne) all made separate applications to Essex County Council to ‘claim’ the footpath. All then obtained additional forms so that witnesses could support their claims. Since the footpath has been closed again, other local residents have sought information about how claims could be made in order to play their part in trying to get the footpath re-opened as a Public Footpath.

George, Bill and Jan, and Marj took the initiative and started the 'claiming' process in October and November 2006 long before plans for dumping 468,000 tonnes of building waste on the golf course were known. This includes the Phase 1 development in which most of 180,000 tonnes of building waste will be used to construct a floodlit driving range on the practice field next to the footpath and to the rear of Curlew Cresecent. The side of the driving range will be 6 metres (20 feet) above the existing ground level.

When Planning Permission was granted (in September 2007) an assurance was given that the footpath would remain open, an assurance repeated in the minutes of the meeting (p 334). Both Mr Clive Simpson (manager of Planning Services at Basildon District Council) and Mr Ron Maydon (on of the two Directors of Basildon Golf Centre Limited) were in attendance.

If the approved plans for the golf course go ahead it seems likely that the footpath will need to be closed for safety reasons while the adjacent driving range is built, and for the same reason it may be argued that the footpath should remain closed if the driving range is completed. For this reason, the footpath is of interest to Friends of Basildon Golf Course.

Essex County Council normally consider such claims on an area by area basis, but in view of the high level of interest in this claim they agreed to start the process earlier. They approved the route as Footpath 268 in 2008.

However, the Council's decision has been appealed by Mrs McGurk (a local resident)and by Jack Barker Golf, and Basildon District Council have now joined the Appeal.

Copies of the witness form and an accompanying map, and information about what needs to be done, can be obtained from (and returned to) George Parker (15 Curlew Crescent, 01268 533869) Jan Rippon (4, Hawksway, 01268 522982; jan.rippon@virgin.net) or from Marj Frazer (01268 524103; marjandneil.frazer@btinternet.com). I have copies too. Anyone who has used the footpath can be a witness; witness statements from regular users and those who have used the footpath more than 20 years ago will be particularly welcome. Supporting photographs will also be accepted; there may be almost enough recent photographs so quality may be preferable to quantity. However, if anyone happens to have old photographs with dates please consider adding them to your witness statement and map.

Anyone wishing to give evidence to the Inspector at the enquiry must make a written submission to the Planning Inspectorate by 17th November.

Anyone who wants to read around the subject might care to use the following link

www.planning-inspectorate.gov.uk/pins/appeals/rights_of_way/rights_way.htm#new_booklet

So far I have concentrated on what need to be done to try and get the footpath re-opened in terms of the ‘claiming’ procedure. What else has been happening?

Immediately after the (second) closure in January, a number of residents/supporters contacted Basildon District Council. One officer replied

‘I have contacted the County Council to ascertain the current situation as to the application for Public Footpath status. The application has not yet been considered but when it is the Council will be approached as we have made formal objections to the proposal.’

A second replied
‘The Council has at no time accepted that there is a formal right of access passing over this land. Upon becoming aware of this application I arranged for an objection to this application to be lodged with Essex County Council. I understand that this application remains outstanding and as yet has not been considered by ECC.

Later the same officer wrote:
‘As the current lessee of this land JB Golf are therefore perfectly within their rights to stop up this access, and I understand that any continued use of this access at this time will be considered as an act of trespass and that the Manager of the Golf Course will take what ever action he considers appropriate to ensure it does not recur.’

Those who have used the footpath in the past find these responses disappointing. The following article on the law of trespass which may be of interest; please note that I have not been able to check its source or its accuracy:

People in a park will often protest (if asked to leave) that it is public land. However the ownership of the land is not relevant. Even if the land is owned by a public body, such as the local council, this does not mean necessarily that they have a right to be on it at all times - they do not. If the place closes at a certain time and a visitor remains after that time, they can then be considered to be trespassing. If a visitor misbehaves at any time and refuses to leave when asked to do so by someone with a right to do so (usually the landowner or a representative) then the visitor could becomes a trespasser because they no longer have the landowner's permission to be there, even if they entered legally. Note: this also gives landowners the absolute right to close off paths (other than rights of way), and areas without notice or explanation.

This law is of little practical use but might be employed when arguing with more reasonable people. It does not apply to people on a public footpath or other right of way, or on open access land. The problem is that if someone is trespassing, they are unlikely to comply with a polite request to leave, and if they then do not, the landowner has little if any further recourse. Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows the senior police officer attending the scene of an incident involving a trespass or nuisance on land to order trespassers to leave the land and to remove their vehicles as soon as reasonably practicable. The power can only be used when there are two or more people there and "are present there with the common purpose of residing there for any period, [and] that reasonable steps have been taken by or on behalf of the occupier to ask them to leave" and either the trespassers have six or more vehicles between them, or they have caused damage to the land or to property on the land or used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour - or both. So really it's not likely to cover anything other than a major invasion. This power is not often used, but for practical purposes this is the only instance where you might get the police to come and actually remove trespassers from a bit of land.

Sometimes, people go onto private property, such as woodland, which is not apparently fenced off and where the owners do not seem to mind. The fact that there is no fence or no sign saying that the land is private does not mean that people can go there. Wandering on to farmers' fields or other places which are obviously private is clearly trespassing, but so is wandering over land which may not be so clearly private, if the public has no right of access.
It is not normally possible to be a trespasser whilst legitimately on a right of way. However, if the user is not using the right of way as a route to get from one place to another, but using it for some other reason, such as to interfere with the landowner, they can be considered to be a trespasser.

Residents have also sought to publicise their disappointment with the closure, and on 11 February a whole page of the Echo was given over to this story which Jon Austin has reported under the headline 'Give back our path so that we can walk our dogs'. A shortened version of the story can be seen on the echo website at

www.echo-news.co.uk/news/basildonnews/display.var.2030846.0.give_back_our_path_so_we_can_walk_our_dogs.php

Shortly after the closure I took the following photographs show that the footpath has been well used for a long time







And a final photograph from Risebridge Golf course, Romford, also managed by Jack Barker Golf.





Ian James standing in front of a closed footpath at Risebridge (see Risebridge blog)