For some years, Hitchin Forum members have worked in coordination with Hertfordshire County Council’s Countryside Access Officer for our area, Nicholas Maddex. Our input was of the form of a general survey of footpaths in Hitchin conducted every six months. The reports not only highlighted issues, but also identified action which had been taken (previous reports here).
Early in 2018, HCC and the Countryside Management Service called for volunteers to train as Footpath Surveyors. Bill Sellicks took part in the training and is now completing surveys on behalf of HCC / CMS of paths in Hitchin and surrounding parishes.
Hitchin has well-over 100 footpaths and bridleways, and members may be able to provide useful information which will prompt a survey which could result in action being taken to rectify problems. Health and safety issues tend to receive a rapid response – the installation of a hand-rail in St John’s path, or the closure of the footpath behind the Gudwara in Bearton Avenue following reporting of a leaning wall being recent examples. Other issues take longer – the clearance of vegetation on the verge of Wymondley Road between the St Michael’s Road roundabout and Coot’s Corner which forms part of the Hitchin Outer Orbital Path took a couple of years before being prioritised.
It is important to realise how responsibilities for care and maintenance of footpaths and bridleways are divided between Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) and North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC).
Hertfordshire County Council Responsibilities.
HCC deals with surfaces of rights of way. This includes steps and bridges. It maintains, or encourages landowners to maintain ‘access furniture’ – stiles and gates – and is responsible for signage. It will take action on overhanging vegetation and other obstructions – generally this is of the form of negotiation with landowners about maintenance of hedges, boundary fences and walls.
North Hertfordshire District Council Responsibilities
Litter, fly tipping and graffiti are the responsibility of NHDC. All can be reported using the Council’s website, although direct action on the part of the Council depends on the location and, in the case of graffiti, a report will often simply result in a property owner being informed.
Details of all paths surveyed and any issues identified are available here. Rights of way are identified by their number on HCC’s web version of the Definitive Map. Use of this takes a little practice, so we have obtained permission from the Ordnance Survey via HCC to provide a map of most of Hitchin definitive urban paths here. When you open it in your web browser, it will help if you increase the size of the page in order to see the relevant numbers.
If you notice any problems which are likely to be the responsibility of HCC please get in touch by email to firstname.lastname@example.org giving details of the location and nature of the problem. This will initiate a survey which will be forwarded to HCC.
NHDC forms for reporting of graffiti and fly-tipping.
If you would like more detail on any of the completed surveys listed, please request a copy of the survey by email to email@example.com