Country lane opened up to cyclists, horse riders and carriage drivers after legal challenge
'Once a highway, always a highway' goes an old legal maxim, but what happens when a pathway is wrongly recorded on council maps?
One campaigner took up the case of a country lane which Norfolk County Council had down as a ‘footpath’, but should have been listed as a ‘restricted byway’.
And after a positive result for Ian Witham, Open Spaces Society’s local correspondent in Norfolk, Postle’s Lane in Trunch, near North Walsham, has now been reclassified, meaning it can be freely used, not only by walkers as is the case for a footpath, but also by riders, cyclists and carriage drivers according to the rules for a restricted byway.
Mr Witham said: “The evidence unearthed since clearly shows that this is a byway, and it is high time that it was recorded as such.
“This upgrade will make a positive difference to horse riders in the village, as well as any cyclists and carriage drivers.
“There are a couple of other, similar upgrades that we are currently seeking elsewhere in the parish.”
Mr Witham produced evidence including a Trunch tithe map of 1839, an extract from the Finance Act 1910 map, the Ordnance Survey’s Object Name Book which referred to Postle’s Lane as a road, and various other old maps.
The landowner objected but a planning inspector backed Mr Witham’s findings.
To have a wrongly-recorded route re-classed it has to be proved that it has been a highway in the past and that it has not been closed or extinguished.
However, the government has ruled that from 2026 unrecorded rights will be extinguished for ever.
Mr Witham said: “It is important that routes such as these across the country get researched and claimed before the cut-off in 2026 which is getting ever closer.”
Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said: “Ian has shown a fine example by researching the historic evidence and proving that this route has more rights than originally supposed.
“We are at risk of losing many rights unless we discover and apply for them to be added to the definitive maps before January 1, 2026 — less than seven years away.”
“The Open Spaces Society is working with the Ramblers, British Horse Society and other organisations to ensure such routes are identified.”