Monday 11 February 2008

A public footpath in Highams Park

Signpost to squalor and obstruction: Handsworth Avenue E4.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 required the London Borough of Waltham Forest to have prepared and published a Rights of Way Improvement Plan by November 2007. The best the Council could manage in seven years was a draft. It is still working on the final version of the Plan - and its apathy about meeting its statutory obligations says everything about its historic indifference to walking and pedestrians.

One of the statutory requirements of the Council's assessment of its public rights of way network is that it must specify "future improvements", which includes "the accessibility of the rights of way to blind or partially sighted people and others with mobility problems".

Well, if the Council was honest, its assessment would say "Many of our rights of way are totally inaccessible to such persons. We have no plans to change this situation until it becomes a statutory obligation and people in wheelchairs start suing us for breaching the law."

And now let's go for a stroll along this public footpath which leads from Handsworth Avenue E4 through to The Avenue E4. It perfectly represents the squalid, threatening and unpleasant state of many public rights of way which are in the care of this Council. In fact the only thing I can say in the Council's favour is that they have signed it. The state of it, however, is a disgrace.

To deter pavement parking on the footpath (in a location which is close to commercial premises) the Council has installed two miserable concrete bollards. They are of a low type no longer used, because blind or partially sighted people can easily collide or trip over them. The one shown above seems to have been bashed so many times that it has come loose from its foundations.

Sadly, two bollards are not enough. Leaving aside the little matter of the complete absence of dropped kerbs, the footpath is totally obstructed by a parked car.

The footpath curls round to the right. Here, once again, it is totally obstructed by cars parked on the path.

The Council officer who is dealing with responses to the Draft Rights of Way Improvement Plan is the Project Co-ordinator, Mr C Bates. If you have any concerns about public rights of way in this Borough or suggestions how they might be improved, or are curious as to how exactly the Council intends to meet the needs of footpath users with mobility problems, why not get in touch with him? His phone number is 020 8496 2613 and his email address is