Development Affecting Rights of Way
Proposals that would affect any rights of way will only be permitted where an acceptable diversion is provided by the developer and a legal diversion order obtained, or if a clear benefit arises from the change sufficient to outweigh the loss to the rights of way network.
Development of the Rights of Way Network
Proposals to improve or extend the rights of way network or that would encourage greater public use will be supported, except where undue damage to agricultural or nature conservation interests would outweigh the benefits of the proposal or the interests of existing users would be disadvantaged.
4.50 The Council will normally seek to retain all existing rights of way, and to ensure replacement of any lost to new development. There is an extensive network of footpaths, bridleways, and byways throughout the Local Plan area, much of which passes through landscape of outstanding quality. The network provides an important leisure facility for both local people and visitors and as such requires protection.
4.51 Diversion and closure of rights of way is the responsibility of the Highway Authority, who consult the District Council as part of the statutory procedures on such matters. The Council's response to such consultations will normally be to object to changes which would result in a loss of amenity for users of the network or result in their loss or downgrading, unless there is an clear benefit which outweighs the loss.
4.52 The District Council will, as the Local Planning Authority, consider any effects on the rights of way network proposals for development may have, in accordance with Policy RE5 above. In cases where a proposal would prejudice the network, development is only likely to be permitted where an adequate alternate route can be provided, and a legal diversion obtained. Proposals for developments that abut existing footpaths and bridleways may require landscaping and screening along their boundary. With the correct mix of species such landscaping can enhance the natural history of the area.
4.53 Wherever possible, opportunities for extensions to or links within the network should be encouraged, as will promotion of the existing network. The East Cumbria Countryside Project has done much valuable work to this end in the eastern part of the Local Plan area. This has involved physical improvements to the network, signposting, guided walks, and the publication of interpretative leaflets. The District Council will continue to support East Cumbria Countryside Project and encourage the efforts of other bodies and voluntary groups working in this field.