The smoke screens of not closing towpaths

Published: Thursday, 23 April 2020

I THINK everyone is missing the reason why the Canal & River Trust is outright refusing to close the towpaths, writes Benjamin Deane.

It has made many excuses.  Access needed by boaters, staff and landowners.  We all know that these are a smoke screen as all they have to do is close them to the general public.  They were closed before and there were still these same requirements.

More smoke screens

Another excuse being it was different for the foot and mouth outbreak as it could be transmitted on your feet and is dangerous to cows, unlike the current virus which is transmitted by air and by touching things with bare hands rather than protective footwear but hey, we gotta look after the cows after all they are more important.  Another smoke screen.

As for the excuse of using the Defra advice, well, it’s being taken out of context as we all know they aren’t referring to towpaths.  Another smokescreen.

Have you noticed that nowadays when a towpath is closed they have set up a diversion route around the blockage for the towpath users.  There must be a reason for this and there is.  At least I think so.  Well, apart from them losing face after all their advertising of come to the safe canals and life being better by water.

Permissive not public

Let me explain.  The majority of towpaths are permissive not public as most members of the public seem to think.  Oh, if you think I’m wrong on this bit here is a quote from CaRT website:

'Is the towpath a public right of way?
Most towpaths are not public rights of way.  Instead, the majority of our towpaths are ‘permissive paths’ as we allow members of the public to use them.  Occasionally we need to close towpaths to carry out maintenance work.'

For those who aren’t sure what a permissive path is.  'A permissive path, permitted path or concessionary path is a path (which could be for walkers, riders, cyclists, or any combination) whose use is allowed by the landowner'.

The 20 years rule

Many owners of permissive paths will close them from time to time and for a good reason and that’s the 20 years rule:

'The act of so closing or signing it ensures that any future use of it does not count towards the 20 years' use 'as of right' needed to establish its public status'.

The last time the towpaths were closed was back in 2001.  So, guess what, next year the towpaths will be eligible to be deemed public rights of way and the closing of them now would set this back another 20 years.

'In England and Wales, a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway may be expressly dedicated by the owner as a public right of way.  Furthermore, unchallenged use by the public, as of right, for at least 20 years, may give rise to a presumption of dedication under Section 31 of the Highways Act 1980'.

Money pure and simple

So why would CaRT be wanting this and if so why not just dedicate it?  Simply put, money pure and simple I think just dedicating it would upset a lot of people either rightly or wrongly as it would be advertised as marketing opportunity by CaRT.  However, if it just quietly passed unknown and unheard of it would be too late for anyone to stop it or complain.

Direct quotes used were obtained from: