Public Footpath 73 leading into Porthkerry Park at Clos Cwm Barri
Regulation 9 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020, as amended requires amongst other things for the Council to close of rights of way where it considers them:
(a) to be liable to large numbers of people congregating or being in close proximity to each other, or
(b) the use of which otherwise poses a high risk to the incidence or spread of infection in its area with the coronavirus
The regulations also require periodic review of any closure made. The council completed a review of the closure of Footpath 73 on 9th July 2020. In doing so the Council considered its duty under regulation 9 and the following criteria:
Usage by large numbers
Nature/location of the path
Evidence of failure to adhere to social distancing (irresponsible use)
Underlying health conditions
In respect of the first three of these criteria the Council found that the conditions around Footpath 73 are not distinct from other areas of the park or entrances into it. It acknowledges however that elevated risk associated with private health conditions may impact these. As such it has considered that risk in the context of guidance, technical advice and particularly the relaxation of restrictions that could previously have led to increased pressure on park entrances or that were indicative of general rates of transmission.
Taking these into account along with recent guidance on reopening paths the Council has concluded that the temporary closure of the path should be revoked from Monday 13 July 2020. Signage will be provided encouraging social distancing and the availability of the path monitored by reference to the above four tests.
The Council is aware that Footpath 73 remains unavailable at this time. The Council has served an enforcement notice under s143 of the Highways Act 1980 and will further consider appropriate forms of legal remedy as necessary.
All other closures, which were introduced as part of coronavirus measures, have now been lifted.
When making use of public paths please exercise responsibly, stay local and follow public health advice.
Following the lockdown landowners have raised concerns about increased use of public rights of way on their property, increased numbers of dogs, and perceived risks of exposure to Covid-19 for residents and farm workers, particularly where family members are either vulnerable and/or self-isolating.
To help address this, the Welsh Government have published guidance: 'Stay active, stay healthy, stay local' and increased messaging around responsible recreation.
Landowners do not have the legal right to block or obstruct public rights of way or access land. However, in very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using such routes or where residents are vulnerable or self-isolating, landowners may consider the following measures:
Temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens or farmyards*.
Offering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so (you must gain permission from relevant landowners and make sure the route is safe for users and livestock) provided that the original right of way is maintained.
*This is a polite request only, and there is no power under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) or the Highways Act 1980 for landowners to close or obstruct a public right of way or use of access land
Key points to note under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and the Highways Act 1980:
Under Section 137 the Highways Act 1980 and section 14 of CROW it is an offence to obstruct the free passage along a public right of way or Access Land.
It is an offence under Section 57 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 to display a notice that contains “any false or misleading statement likely to deter the public from using” a right of way.
It is also an offence under section 14 of CROW to display a sign which deters the public from exercising their right to use that access land.
It is an offence under Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980 to display on the surface of a public right of way or on any tree or structure within the public right of way any unauthorised sign or mark.
Land owners may be liable for personal injury under section 2 of the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 and Section 1 of the Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 if they are reckless or intend to create a risk – for example by offering a dangerous alternative.