Part of the reason for the excessive delay was the inclusion of minor roads and cart tracks as RUPPs on the rights of way maps.
Between the draft and provisional stages, access for horse riders in many areas was particularly badly damaged by the wholesale downgrading of RUPPs. Thousands of miles of sustainable equestrian access along ancient lanes and cartways was lost. It was this action by the county councils that was largely responsible for the fractured network that we still have today.
The Surveying Process
Clear guidance (Circulars 81 & 91) on the recording of RUPPs was issued to all parish and district councils across the country. Parish Surveyors walked all the known public paths in their district, recording details for each path on written walking schedules provided by their Surveying Authority (usually the County Council). The symbols ‘CRF’ (cart road footpath) and ‘CRB’ (cart road bridleway) were used on the schedules to identify the RUPPs.
A parish draft map and the written information was then sent to the Surveying Authority, who used it to prepare the Draft Maps and accompanying Statements for their whole area. Here an element of confusion appears to have crept in.
It was intended that paths which had initially been recorded as CRFs and CRBs on the walking schedules, were to be referred in the Statements by the term actually used in the Act i.e. ‘Road used as a Public Path’. But there were surveying authorities that continued to refer to them as CRFs and CRBs. (see example from Somerset Minehead Wiliton page 698). Nevertheless, they were still understood to have been (or still are) RUPPs.
The Downgrading Process
Some county councils took the decision to downgrade the status of these minor roads at an early stage – mostly to footpath (see example in Kent 1958 page 87). Then, in 1959 a new consolidated Highways Act was passed which repealed NPACA 1949 Clauses 47 to 50. The very clauses which had allowed local authorities to take over some maintenance liability for the upkeep of RUPPs as recommended in the Hobhouse Report.
As the Highways Act 1959 included provisions to enforce the repair of privately maintained roads; abandoning the RUPP status must have seemed a tempting option for some Surveying Authorities.
Whether it was an attempt on their part to save money on maintenance or a latent confusion about the status of RUPPS is not known. But cost-cutting definitely played a part in West Yorkshire. See Sue Hogg’s paper on the downgrading of RUPPs in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Advertising the Changes in the London Gazette
Under the 1949 Act, interim changes (i.e. the addition or deletion of a right of way) to the draft map had to be advertised in the London Gazette. But not all county councils saw the need to advertise the downgrading the status of their RUPPs.
However, where this did happen, there was a severe impact on equestrian access.
The London Gazette has kindly given us permission to publish some examples:
In the Third Schedule for West Penwith RDC four RUPPs were changed to bridleways, while 14 were downgraded to footpaths status.
In Kerrier RDC a large number of RUPPs were deleted in the First Schedule (one can only imagine what impact that must have had on their bridleway infrastructure). While in the Third Schedule two RUPPs were changed to bridleways and 14 were downgraded to footpaths
In the Truro RDC, rather oddly, the Second Schedule added 44 RUPPs in the Chacewater District, which suggests that differing local interpretations of RUPP category was causing some confusion; in the Third Schedule eight RUPPs were changed to bridleways and 31 were downgraded to footpaths. If we look at a modern map of the area today, the localised impact on the bridleway network is obvious. There is a cluster of byways around Chacewater and a distinct shortage of bridleways nearby.
Kent advertised their changes to status in the Fourth Schedule. These changes which took place between 1955 and 1961, downgraded the status of 231 RUPPs. Thirteen of these were retained as bridleways and 218 were changed to footpaths.
The changes in Somerset seem to have been more balanced, as the county was still adding RUPPs to its map, while at the same time downgrading them. This may be explained by the large number of privately maintained driftways or droveways in that county.
Historically, waywardens were responsible for the supervision of the maintenance of these routes, while the surveyors of the highways were responsible for the publicly maintained roads. Nevertheless, both categories were included in the 19th-century returns of lengths of public carriage roads which each district was required to send to central government.
In Warwickshire the majority of changes to RUPP status resulted in their being downgraded to footpaths.