Righting the Public Wrongs of Way

A committee exploring the condition of the island’s footpaths is calling on the gov to outline how it will set about fixing the poor state of some of the island’s footpaths and criticised the DoI for the current state of affairs.

The committee was established by Tynwald following a Tynwald Day petition from David ‘Butch’ Buttery.

Chaired by Douglas South MHK Sarah Maltby, the committee will present its three recommendations to Tynwald in July, while putting the boot into what it perceives as the failure of the DoI to maintain the network.

The first recommendation is that the Tynwald is of the opinion that there ‘should be adequate investment in maintaining the Public Rights of Way network and Government-owned public paths’.

But within this, the committee said that the DoI is ‘responsible for the ongoing failure to maintain the Public Rights of Way network to an adequate standard’.

It explained: ‘While it is true, then, that there are a number of different bodies involved in the maintenance of the PROW network, we do not think that this is the main reason why paths are not being maintained to an acceptable standard. Rather, it is the result of the Department of Infrastructure’s failure over many years to manage the network adequately.’

If They’re Wrong, They’re Wrong 🤷‍♂️

It also says that the DoI is ‘responsible for the ongoing failure to maintain the Public Rights of Way network to an adequate standard’. Under Section 92 of the Highways Act, the DoI is responsible for the Definitive Maps and Statement. As the committee adds, even if these maps are wrong, which some are, they can’t be challenged in court ‘even if they do not reflect reality’.

Director of Highway Services Jeff Robinson told the committee that ‘no work had been done on [updating the Definitive Map] for probably 30 years’. Something the committee said was a ‘serious failure’.

This led the committee to making its second recommendation that the DoI should go to Tynwald by April 2023 with a report detailing how it intends to address the backlog of changes that need to be made to rectify this.

Working Party

The third recommendation, reflecting the need for improvements across the gov, calls on CoMin to establish a working party that would develop a ‘viable and fully costed strategy for proactively maintaining and developing the Island’s Public Rights of Way and Government-owned public paths’.

The committee said the working party should consider:

  • The funding required to maintain all Public Rights of Way and Government- owned public paths to an adequate standard and how it should be allocated;
  • What would be required for the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture to take on responsibility for maintaining rural Public Rights of Way;
  • What would be required for local authorities to take on responsibility for maintaining non-premier Public Rights of Way;
  • What would be required to keep the Definitive Maps and Statement up-to-date and accurate; and
  • Whether the legislation in this area could be reformed to aid the more efficient maintenance of paths.