Dobcross footpath victory celebrated

WALKERS have hailed a decision to formally constitute a much-used Dobcross footpath as a public right of way as a ‘victory for common sense.’

Oldham Council officers were against declaring the area as people had been using it with their permission for about 50 years.

However, a meeting of the authority’s Traffic Regulation Order Panel saw that recommendation overlooked in favour of going that step further and making it formal.

Dobcross bridge and path appeal (5)
The bridge has been closed for a number of years – GGC Media

A footbridge on the route will now be looked at with regards to making it safe.

And John Walton of the Ramblers’ Association – who put forward the application to make the path, which runs between Dobcross New Road and Mow Halls Lane, designated as public – believes sense was seen.

“Common sense prevailed,” he said.

Dobcross footpath Oldham Council appeal (5)
John Walton of The Ramblers Association – GGC Media

“There was never a concern in my mind that it wouldn’t get the go ahead. I was always confident, even with the council’s report.

“The support of groups like the Wednesday Walkers and all the other groups in Dobcross has been huge – they’ve all had my back.

“I was doing it for them as much as it was for me. I’ve been doing this now for 40 years and touch wood, I’ve not lost a path yet.

Dobcross footpath Oldham Council appeal (11)
Members of the community and Ramblers Association came out in force for the meeting – GGC Media

“I just think it’s common sense – the majority of people have used it and there’s no sign saying it’s being used with permission.

“No-one has ever been stopped – but local people were flummoxed.”

Dozens of supporters sat in the public gallery as John’s application was made but it quickly became a technical argument between being used ‘as of right’ and ‘by right.’

Dobcross bridge and path appeal (10)
The bridge on the footpath -GGC Media

As of right would mean it would be designated as public while by right means walkers use it with the land owner’s permission.

And as Oldham Council is the landowner, the assumption it can be used meant the application should be voted down.

According to documents, Cllr Luke Lancaster wanted it being made public and spoke at the hearing while colleague Cllr Pam Byrne was in favour of it remaining as it was.

Dobcross footpath Oldham Council appeal (9)

Oldham Council officer Liam Kennedy argued the test of a path being used without permission of the land owner for 20 years or more – which sees one being declared public – was not met.

He said: “We felt it didn’t satisfy the legal test of 20 year’s use without permission on account of the fact that at either end of the route, it crosses council-owned land. We say that’s used with our permission.

“We accept the other aspects – without force, secrecy or for 20 years – have been satisfied. It’s the as of right bit that’s at the crux of the issue.”

However, a sign featuring Oldham Council’s logo proved key in the decision.

And Cllr Lancaster told the meeting: “I want to commend the efforts of Mr Walton, the Oldham Ramblers’ Association, the Dobcross village community and all other stakeholders for their positive contributions in trying to safeguard this much-loved footpath.

“Many thousands of residents and visitors to Saddleworth enjoyed access in recent years. It was always a popular route, primarily as it offered safe passage between Uppermill and Dobcross.

“It cannot be right that this application is critically-judged and refused.”

Despite the officers’ report, Cllr Chris Gloster – sitting as chair of the panel – decided to overrule them and go ahead with declaring it as public.

He said: “The issue for me is whether or not this is used ‘by right or ‘as of right.’ It’s a tricky one and is very technical.

“However, I’m fairly satisfied that the council itself has indicated this footpath is used as of right.”

His recommendation was voted through unanimously.


3 Replies to “Dobcross footpath victory celebrated”

  1. Let’s hope that the bridge will be repaired so that people can once again use this route which was used by so many people for several many years. It is a footpath which cuts off walking down the main road to Uppermill .
    Thank you to all who are making this possible

  2. Speaking as one of the many people who actually still use these footpaths and rights of way this is a good sensible result, well done to everyone involved.

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