Sometimes, paths on the Definitive Map have magically changed route on the ground. There is an application to divert a branch of Footpath 31 Llantwit Fardre and, armed with a map and my camera, I set off to have a look. My comments on behalf of Open Spaces Society will go to the Rights of Way officer.
Rhondda Cynon Taf have a digital map online (see below: paths are in magenta, planning in hatched red), and it shows that the path’s correct line goes straight through a cottage on the Main Road B4595. A quick search online added information that the cottage built over the path was sold last July. In October, RCT approved a planning application to demolish it and build a new house. I’ve looked at the planning documents and it is twice denied that the house affects a right of way.
It was a mild wet day for walking over to the path, which is on the hill above Crown Hill – just about visible at the top of the photo.
The older terraces and cottages on Main Road are characterised by regular alleyways up to the back lane that runs behind terraces providing a network of ways. These lanes and alleys are streets, without protection of being a right of way on the Definitive Map. Streets can, and do, disappear from maps. The fields behind terraces have rights of way.
The cottages are between a terrace and another house, the rear boundaries being the field behind, across which the footpath should lie. There is no footpath signpost in front of the cottage, but there is one further down the road, pointing up a track to Llest Farm, which is the address of the fine cider and perry local firm Gwynt y Ddraig.
The signposted track looks well-used and is the proposed route of the diversion. It could be added to the network as a new path, subject of common law dedication or statutory 20 years usage dedication. Diverting the old path onto this route is tantamount to an extinction, because the new route is arguably already a footpath.
This new path is closer on the Main Road to another path, Footpath 74, which runs behind more housing (photo left below). There is a derelict site with planning applications for a business between the two (photo right).
The new footpath or proposed diversion has to share its width with heavy farm vehicles, unlike the present cross-field route. The width of the footpath would need to be wide enough to let pedestrians avoid big vehicles, for example, the whole width of the track, about 3-4 metres.
An advantage of this route is that the surface is wheelchair friendly. In fact, it could accommodate higher rights – for cyclists and equestrians – and be made a restricted byway or bridleway.
The track has a footpath junction near the farm. There is another branch of Footpath 31, going eastwards cross-field back to the Main Road. The proposed diversion on the track runs parallel to the path in the field. I think.
Another branch of FP 31 goes north through the farm so that, if the southern branch was diverted or extinguished, an X would be replaced by a T-junction. Going west, the top of the T becomes Footpath 72, which runs down to Croescade Lane and leading with other lanes to Llantrisant Common.
The branch of Footpath 31 I am inspecting probably goes through the gate opposite the farm entrance (visible on photo left, with FP 72 going down the track), and I looked at the view over the terraces and Crown Hill housing to Tyn-y-Coed woods and the slopes of the Garth.
It is a nicer view with less rain, but not better than the view from the new or proposed diversion path, which shows more of the Garth, a special landscape area.
In a part of the Valleys with great pressure to develop, these hillside rights of way striking off the roads and linking towns to commons are special. There is not much to choose between the routes for enjoyment. I do not know if the track is an unclassified road: there would be advantages if it had higher rights than only a footpath, for active travel and equestrian access to Llantrisant Common and the quiet lanes around.
I shall send my comments and wait for what action the council propose. Sadly, this is far too common: one cottage built over a footpath and another given planning permission many years later.