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Sustrans removes / redesigns 377 barriers on the NCN

From the Sustrans Annual Review which dropped recently (and I only just skimmed):

Improving accessibility on the Network There are thousands of restrictive barriers on traffic-free sections of the Network that prevent many people from accessing and enjoying their local routes. This year we removed or redesigned 377 barriers across the country, exceeding our target of 218. This included 106 on our own land. Thanks to a phenomenal effort from our volunteers, we also audited and mapped every remaining barrier along 5,100 traffic-free miles, so that we can better understand whether they need to be removed or redesigned. 

I think that makes it around 1000 since they started implementing this initiative in ~2020.

For context, their audit of the 13,000 miles of the NCN in 2018 identified 16,000 barriersm, so there is a long way to go in a project aiming to be finished by 2040. 

Imo this is heroic work, and I don't know any other bodies ocmmitted to doing this, and it involves co-ordination with landowners, councils who are having their budgets slashed and local groups.

Meanwhile, I noticed this week that the 11.5 mile towpath of the Erewash Canal, which is mainly decent-ish quality and width (liable to be a little damp at the River Trent end), but is littered with K-Barriers (I am told), consists entirely of Public Footpaths (ie Rights of Way).

"Afaics the entire length of the towpath to the Erewash is a public footpath, and therefore a PROW. Derbyshire, unlike Notts, has their definitive map online and this is Sawley FP20, Long Eaton FP33, Sandiacre FP19, Stanton by Dale FP21, and Ilkeston FP81."

So that means that a couple of legal tools are available to get rid of said barriers which do not straightforwardly apply to permissive paths - the Equality Act 2010 and Section 130 of the Highways Act 1980 (as used by the Ramblers).

If it's good weather tomorrow I may go out and survey it from my cycle, with the aim of gently plotting to get rid of these barriers.


If you're new please join in and if you have questions pop them below and the forum regulars will answer as best we can.

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Jpennycook | 1 month ago

It would be great if they could persuade councils to not install NEW barriers on NCN routes.  Hampshire County Council decided that where a shared use path from Hatch Warren Way in Basingstoke joins Jays Close, the last few metres isn't itself a shared use path, so when a developer building some warehouses removed a car park entrance road where the dropped kerb was, and built a section of pavement to replace it, the Council said there was no need to provide a dropped kerb, so now I either have to dismount, or go a different way.


The NCN23 through Hampshire is not particularly good (busy roads, barriers too close together, narrow shared use paths, not particularly direct)

mattw replied to Jpennycook | 1 month ago
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H'okay. I've had a look at this. Apols for a long response; there are a number of ways potentially to skin this cat.


1 - It is on NCN23, as you say. Therefore Sustrans should be interested.

2 - It is a Council signposted walking / cycling route since I guess the 80s or 90s, proven by Streetview back to 2008-9, with drop kerbs. Therefore it is a service to the public under EA2010, with equal access required for all and the Public Sector Equality Duty potentially engaged especially with the drop kerb removal. Litigation risk for Council under EA2010.

This is probably County not Borough, as the LHA does Public Rights of Way etc.,-1.0990709,3a,87.5y,268.05h,60.35t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sh5xuZ0hJ1BvXQmu_LQ4jAQ!2e0!5s20090801T000000!7i13312!8i6656?entry=ttu

3 - It is a Public Footpath, ref FP 013/506/1 on the Hampshire Definititive Map and Statement. Ditto service to the public, and also Highways Act 1980 S130 should be engaged. Bottom RH corner of this sheet, labelled 506:

4 - In addition to no drop kerb, it also seems to have (Streetview) unlawful chicane barriers both ends. Unlawful obstruction on a PROW ref point 3?

(To address these you will need a brief survey with dimensions (path width, gaps, overlap, longitudinal pitch), evidenced photographically.)

5 - The development is recent, with Planning App no 23/02095/FUL, but contains little reference to maintaining the footpath except for "• New links with existing public transport and footpath/cycle route network" in Section 7.3 of the Design and Access statement.

6 - But there is this is in Planning Condition 19 in the Approval Notice. "Footpath" not "footway" sounds like a reference to the Public Footpath to me. It has not been reinstated to status quo ante, in that cycles and pedestrians with cycles as a mobility aid, mobility scooters etc are now prevented from accessing the pre-existing cycling path.

"19. No part of the development shall be brought into use until all existing redundant accesses have been permanently close and the footway crossings removed and footpath reinstated. REASON: In the interests of highway safety and in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (February 2019) and Policies CN9 and EM10 of the Basingstoke and Deane Local Plan 2011- 2029."

That sounds potentially enforcible at developer expense to me, but  would need Planning Enforcement may ask the developer to sort the drop kerb.

Suspect this has fallen down the "sweat the detail, what's a Public Footpath or a Pedestrian" gap between County, who do PROWs, and Borough, who do Planning.

7 - Basingstoke has local elections on May 2nd 2024. So local councillors may be amenable to lobbying.

8 - I suspect the underlying issue here is a carbrained Council who hope that these type of access questions are dogs that can be left to lie, quoting Schrodinger's Motorcyclist. Our job is to get access, and prove that this assumption is a lie.

What to do with some or all of these?

I'm afraid there's some spadework here, but that is always true.

1 - Get some people whom it causes problems for to complain to their local Councillors pronto eg it stops me getting to work as easily. Mainly County as the people who supervise the LHA, but also District or a District Councillor will whine when a County Councillor does somethingideally also stating that this will affect their vote in May.

Remember Councillors get their own small discretionary budgets usually, which might be enough to fix this (certainly the barriers). Ask, or get 5 people with local votes to ask.

2 - Keep the kerbs and the barriers separate if you feel it is necessary.

3 - Put in a submission via the Sustrans contact form asking them to intervene; they have more clout and relationships.

Sustrans have a barrier removal toolkit - both no drop kerbs and chicanes count as Barriers.

4 - Local cycling campaign may help - you have probably done this. Also Ramblers may be interested - most groups have PROW Compliance Officers who exist for this type of problem.

5 - If you are a member of CUK, Ramblers or Open Spaces Society, engage their professional campaign / support networks on these issues.

6 - Perhaps reach out to Wheels for Wellbeing - they are active on this issue and quite authoritative, and happy to send 'one of our supporters told us about this problem ...' type emails. Their #BashtheBarriers page with lots of references is here:

(If you find them helpful, please make a donation.)

7 - Approach Planning Enforcement, ideally with Councillor support. They like other people to pay for things.

8 - If you are up for strategy, try and make a claim under prescriptive use for 20 years for that to be a Public Right of Way for cycles and put on the Definitive Map. It makes it more difficult for a right of use to be taken away by eg the Council removing the signs. That *will* needs your local cycling group engaged.

9. If someone starts on Scrodinger's ASB Motorcyclist, there are loads of videos out there showing physical barriers do not work, and also this Appeal Court case esp para 41:

There's loads more, but these are a few thoughts.

bob.sweet | 1 month ago

I think Sustrans may have a problem with their maths. 16000 barriers in 2018, to remove them all by 2040 requires 727 per year. So a target of 218 is 73 years, that is 2091. I don't think many of us will see that completed.


mattw replied to bob.sweet | 1 month ago

I think I covered that one in my other comment :-).

All such programmes follow an S-curve:

The start was 2020. I've had a chance to look back throught the previous years.

Year   Barriers Removed/Redesigned

2018-19 Setting Plans
2019-20 31 barriers removed / redesigned
2020-21 242 barriers removed / redesigned
2021-22 423 barriers removed / redesigned
2022-23 377 barriers removed / redesigned

I make that 1073 so far. I'd sall that a "good start", but the rate needs to go to 800-900 per year to meet the 2040 goal.

the little onion | 1 month ago
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what percentage of the NCN can be navigated solo by a competent 10 year old, on a road bike, on a wet Tuesday in February? Or a 80 year old with a dodgy back on an e-assist bike? 

until the answer is close to 100%, and they stop putting in nonsense that meet the needs of neither of these, Sustrans are doing more harm than good.

mattw replied to the little onion | 1 month ago
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That I think speaks to my further comment.

I question "more harm than good" as too sweeping - where would we all be if it simply vanished?

don simon fbpe | 1 month ago

They now just need to get rid of the anti-cycling signage on the Millennium Greenway in Caer, or at least balance them out with "dog's on lead" signage to comply with HC 56!

mattw replied to don simon fbpe | 1 month ago
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You have an example of such signage (seriously)?

I'd be more concerned about the chicane barriers, but then barriers are my chosen issue.


don simon fbpe replied to mattw | 1 month ago

From the same location. Those gates aren't a problem as the path is perpendicular to a road. the other argument is to put the chicane on to the road to slow traffic down.

The other signs, in Newton/Hoole have been removed and new gates added.