This is a response to a County Notice - ref RW/848 - requesting information about the use of the CLAIMED PATH across the front of the chalet site in Blue Anchor
This submission relates to the CLAIMED PATH between:
top of steps at west end of seafront at grid ref: ST 02156 43479
and the join with coastal path at grid ref: ST 01526 43596
"a way or track along which people walk, especially in country areas. In England and Wales Public Footpaths are marked on Ordnance Survey maps and are legal rights of way. They are often very old and people have the right to use them even if they cross private land. They allow people to discover the countryside, and organizations like the Rambler's Association try to make sure that they are kept open and are well looked after."
The CLAIMED PATH is a historic Public Footpath that has existed and still exists across the front of the chalet site.
The issue has unfortunately been conflicted by other footpaths close by - however this sets out to demonstrate:
Blue Anchor is a busy holiday resort that has enjoyed uninterrupted access to the level path to the west of Blue Anchor towards Dunster via the CLAIMED PATH on the high land across the front of the chalet site for time immemorial.
The CLAIMED PATH is rapidly becoming overgrown, but can still be traced as it passes to the south of the gun emplacement and across the high ground in front of the chalets. The front chalets have encroached on the footpath, which ideally should be restored to its previous width. Further westward, pebbles thrown up by gales have obscured the path which would normally have been cleared when the footpath was in full use.
Until 2017 the CLAIMED PATH was neither challenged nor required permission to use. Quite the opposite, as the public were invited onto the site to enjoy facilities like the car park and the shop for many years before and after WW2.
Introduction of a number of recent paths have confused the issue, but it is relevant that neither the public nor the Parish Council were involved in these decisions made by outside bodies.
Resulting from the absence of local consultation over many years, County decided to block the historic CLAIMED PATH.
The County Definitive Path is shown in OS 1:10,560 series 1949-1968 . Its provenance is unproven though it seems to have appeared some time in the 1950s.
The historically established CLAIMED PATH lies very close to the new Coastal Path but is realistically on the high ground above the beach level. The CLAIMED PATH has been used since time immemorial and certainly predates the chalet site.
This is verified by 120 affidavits from long-time users already delivered to the County Council.
All seaward (beach) alternatives are known to be dangerous due to tides, shifting mud, steepness and loose pebbles and specifically discriminates against the elderly, infirm, young families etc - as confirmed by the warning signs put up by the County.
Every year, people are rescued from the mud in the Bay by the Coastguard Service - but people are now directed away from the safe path, down onto the beach and towards the shifting areas of mud.
In February 2017, the County Council redirected the public onto the beach, with appropriate danger warnings. This was an unannounced movement, or creation, of a footpath which was clearly more dangerous and has proved impassable to many previous users of the safe CLAIMED PATH.
Having used the CLAIMED PATH without challenge for 50 years myself, I firmly believe the CLAIMED PATH is, and has always been, valid in terms of both Statutory and Common Law and should be reinstated.
This view is supported by 120 signed affidavits by long-term users via The Ramblers Association; by our M.P. and local Parish and County Council representatives.
Throughout this document, please note that the disputed path is referred to as the CLAIMED PATH. The other three footpaths are abbreviated DP; SCT; CP (see below).
Whilst one might have some sympathy with the Chalet Site owners, readers are reminded that the CLAIMED PATH was in use long before the Chalet Site or any of the other routes existed. It would in any case be expected that a prospective chalet owner will have checked first on the presence of footpaths in the area both on the ground and on maps before purchase.
it is noteworthy that the chalet site owners placed a gate at the main vehicle entrance some years ago, whilst no attempt was made to block off the CLAIMED PATH at that time. The entrance to the CLAIMED PATH remained wide open until 2017 when the path was blocked and walkers directed down steep steps onto the beach. From this it may be assumed that the recent Chalet Site owners are well aware of the existence of the historic CLAIMED PATH and are now denying access to the CLAIMED PATH.
Contacts with the previous Chalet Site owner (via respondent Tony Richards) confirm the view that there have never been any restrictions on accessing any part of the Chalet Site.
It should be borne in mind that the County may become involved in litigation if it proves they have given misleading information to the Chalet Site owners and it is possible this may colour their response.
It appears that County has drawn a line on their Definitive Map to represent the DP (see below) that is just above high tide level. However OS mapping (Explorer OL9 2½ inch to mile) shows this footpath to the south of the gun emplacement.
This is not related to the safe CLAIMED PATH on higher land that has been used for centuries. The DP is not a safe alternative (the signs say so) to the CLAIMED PATH that has been freely used without challenge for many years.
The Definitive Path WL3/19 is drawn 15 metres further out than the walked CLAIMED PATH on the higher land across the front of the chalet site. This alignment means that the DP is covered by the sea for significant periods twice a day. Unsurprisingly, the DP is not waymarked so it is not clear where the turn might take place, a basic requirement of a public footpath.
The formal Definitive Map held by the County Council is hand-drawn on a large-scale map dated 31/5/1954 with a relevant date of 09/59. Unfortunately this is based on an ancient Ordnance Survey map (it appears to be based on the OS 6" 1888-1913 series) drawn long before the chalets (or the gun emplacement) were built so there is no clear reference point. The precise route is not indisputably clear beyond the fact that it clearly lines up with the pavement along the sea-front and this view is supported in writing by the Ordnance Survey mappers and accurately shown on current OS maps of the area.
Responding to the direct question, in an email to me (31/3/2017) Ordnance Survey state: "The most likely source for this Right of Way (ROW) would have been the Somerset Definitive Map. Comparing the current definitive map and the alignment of footpaths on our mapping they are in agreement." - which suggests there might be a later, different, Definitive Map?
Can it really have been the intention of the hand-drawn line on an ancient drawing to place the DP 15 metres out to sea? More sensibly the intention would have been for it to align with the existing level CLAIMED PATH on the coastline? To the independent onlooker viewing the large-scale map it would be difficult to suggest otherwise.
Although it has become more recently a Parish Council responsibility to check footpaths in their area, there appears to be no evidence that this DP drawing from 1959 has ever been presented to the Parish Council to confirm its accuracy or otherwise.
There may well be other CLAIMED PATHs in the country under water at various times - but none will have a patently well-walked and safe land path immediately alongside. The hand-drawn position of the DP defies logic and is not validated by Public or Parish Council consultations or by the O.S.
However this map, from OS 1:10,560 series 1949-1968 was current at the time the Definitive Path (DP) was drawn somewehere below the high tide line. It clearly shows the CLAIMED PATH along the high ground leading into the Chalet Site - and demonstrates the existence of the CLAIMED PATH into and through the Chalet Site.
Why this was not seen both on the ground and on paper at the time the DP was drawn is open to conjecture. The well-worn CLAIMED PATH should rightly have been brought forward as the DP on grounds of usage and commonsense.
This 1950's postcard confirms the existence of the CLAIMED PATH on the high land bahind the former wooden chalets (removed on Health and Safety grounds in the 1970's). Some of the width at this point will have been due to chalet owners using cars to access their chalets and to enable the Coastguard access to the shoreline - the SCT may like to note this previous unchallenged use.
It is unfortunate that the proposed SCT comes close to the CLAIMED PATH as it "follows the public right of way across Dunster Beach" although it does note the "level gradient of the footpath afforded by the low lying coastline".
Unfortunately negotiations with the Chalet owners failed and the SCT now ends at the boundary of the Chalet Site land ownership. Users coming from Dunster are now forced to slide down a steep pebble bank (or clamber up it on the return journey) that shifts with the tides.
Other than the mention above, the existence of the CLAIMED PATH through the chalet site was not acknowledged, despite the very obvious wear path on the ground and the OS map shown above. Public and the Parish Council don't appear to have been involved or they would have mentioned the CLAIMED PATH which at all times was neither blocked nor permissive.
This was similarly agreed without any consultation with residents (or I believe, the Parish Council, as it is not mentioned) about the CLAIMED PATH, despite the CLAIMED PATH being clearly visible on the ground and being well used.
However there are a number of revealing comments by the Planning Inspectorate (April 2014: ref AP/MCA/BDM/O/3) who expressed some surprise that the walked path was not selected to be part of the Coastal Path in her report:
The salient point here is that an agreement between the Natural England and the Chalet Site owners seeks to rob the residents and holidaymakers of their Statutory and Common Law rights to a CLAIMED PATH despite the presence of the very obvious walked path.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The resulting map shows the route of the Coastal Path which joins the Chalet Site not far from the end of the last chalet
It is relevant that from this date in 2014, to the blocking up of the CLAIMED PATH by the County Council in March 2017, there was no sign or any restriction to limit public enjoyment of the CLAIMED PATH.
County will equally have seen the "clearly walked route" at that time and apparently acted contrary to the public interest by not involving the Parish Council or the public in their private agreement.
A diversion was hurriedly arranged by the County Council in early 2017, which involved vague signing and also blocked the CLAIMED PATH. It was queried why public money was being used to block an established (from clear evidence on the ground and a complaint from me) CLAIMED PATH? County assured Natural England that the CLAIMED PATH should be blocked. Public money has been used to block off a historic footpath and re-direct the public down to a new and less safe footpath on the pebble beach.
In that the TCP was never advertised, at best it represents a movement of the Definitive Path without notice and without the statutory opportunity for the public or the Parish Council to comment.
At best, closing or moving a CLAIMED PATH (DP) without warning or proper procedures is a flagrant disregard of equality rights. The TCP is more than a reroute; the TCP is acknowledged to be dangerous and cannot be used by the elderly, disabled, prams, cycles etc. Many former users of the CLAIMED PATH, together with their families, have had their Common Law rights summarily removed.
Anyone walking the TCP should be aware that contours and underfoot conditions can change between tides as part is below mean high tide level and all is subject to reconfiguration during neap tides.
Early 2020 and recent storms have piled up the shingle. The new TCP presumably runs around the gun emplacement with the pebbles at a difficult angle for all but the most steady on their feet.
This 1961 postcard shows the front chalets (before chalet patios were extended and narrowed the footpath) were built on bedrock.
This 1990 picture shows the state of the chalets after severe storm damage and flooding. No erosion.
As the many alternative paths are unsuitable for one reason or another, I therefore focus on the unchallenged use of the CLAIMED PATH leading from the top of the steps at the west end of Blue Anchor promenade past the seaward side of the chalets on the seaward (northern) side of the chalet site.
From this 1999 postcard, note the historic gap in the fencing on the main road and the signpost (as mentioned in the Inspectors Report above) at the start of the CLAIMED PATH which has hitherto given unrestricted access to this footpath.
This is a photo of the official footpath sign, taken in August 2012 - clearly pointing to the CLAIMED PATH and not towards the beach. It was wrongly turned around by the County Council in 2017.
Footpaths are historic and are protected by "Once a footpath always a footpath". Before March 2017 what person would voluntarily walk 15 metres out to sea and then across a steeply shelved pebble beach when there was a direct and level path on land? Of course they didn't; they kept to the well-worn CLAIMED PATH that has been used for time immemorial.
As mentioned above, the Inspector in 2014 stated "there was a clear evidence of use of this area of land . . . . . both in terms of the worn track across the grass and the people I observed doing so".
There are many photographs showing the footpath and the public using it. Early Post Cards clearly demonstrate the way the site was used by the public - for recreation, access to the car parking area and for the shop. The route of the CLAIMED PATH is clearly shown on more recent Google Earth and other photographs. The previous owner of the site never placed any restrictions on public use of the whole of the chalet site.
An early photo demonstrating unrestricted access to the front of the chalet site in the late 1920's or early 1930's - pedestrian and car parking.
This photo demonstrates unrestricted access to the front of the chalet site in 1932 - pedestrian and car parking.
Pictured in 1935, clear evidence of the CLAIMED PATH across the high land before the front chalets were built.
This 1940's postcard shows no restrictions either to entry or to the busy public car park. Evidence of active encouragement for the public to use the site for access to the beach and shop.
This 1939 postcard also shows no restrictions either to entry or to the busy public car park. Evidence of active encouragement for the public to use the site for access to the beach and shop.
It is worth repeating this map, from OS 1:10,560 series 1949-1968 - which shows the CLAIMED PATH along the high ground leading into the Chalet Site - and demonstrates the existence of the CLAIMED PATH through the Chalet Site at the time the DP was being drawn.
This 1961 postcard shows the front chalets before chalet gardens were extended to narrow the CLAIMED PATH. The footpath isn't that clear, however the worn path in front of the chalets can just about be made out.
The wooden chalets beyond were removed on Health and Safety grounds in the 1970's.
This late 1960's postcard gives an idea of the size of the close-by tourism trade; there is another large caravan site immediately to the east of Blue Anchor. The long sea-front has always enjoyed free parking both sides for the whole length. By wrongly blocking the CLAIMED PATH (the only safe access to the west), County has seriously inconvenienced the significant tourist trade and the income it produces.
Bottom centre of this picture shows two open and ungated accesses to the chalet site, including the (smaller) post-war carpark.
For many years the chalet site had a shop that was open to everybody without any restrictions. Not shown in this picture are the toilets used by the public and the public car parking area.
This part of the chalet site was overgrown for several years as this 1999 photo shows. However the CLAIMED PATH continued to be used without challenge or restriction and the Lifebelt remained in place until early 2017.
The road was realigned following the rebuild of the parapet in 2004 and County paid for the new pavement and fencing shown in this picture. You will see that, after due checking by County, the fencing did NOT block off or otherwise limit the CLAIMED PATH, which is plainly visible in this photo.
Until February 2017, there was no fencing and the entrance to the CLAIMED PATH was unobstructed. The wear at the entrance to the CLAIMED PATH is clear. The fingerpost referred to in the Inspectors Report, above, had already been turned at this stage however the Lifebelt and mounting are still on top of the old gun emplacement.
The Bristol Channel has the second highest rise and fall in the world and many have been caught in the shifting mud in Blue Anchor Bay and needed rescue (ask the Coastguard). Despite this, County closed the safe CLAIMED PATH and directed pedestrians down onto this (as signed) dangerous beach. The Parish Council and residents were not consulted about the closure of their well-used CLAIMED PATH.
This appeared in the Free Press of 6th October 2017, relating to the SCT, a multi-million pound scheme to link up coastal communities. His comments are also relevant to the claimed CLAIMED PATH through the site.
"I was somewhat disheartened to learn that the latest attempt to break the deadlock over the coatal footpath at Blue Anchor has ended without agreement."
"As a result what should be - and was designed to be - an easily negotiable pedestrian route from Dunster Beach is incomplete, with users obliged to scramble down a shingle bank and along the beach for the last few dozen yards - not really an option if you are old, frail or pushing a buggy."
"Rights of way and access issues are invariably complicated but in this case we appear to be faced with a particularly intractable problem. The chalet owners are claiming there is no general access across the land fronting their properties - despite the fact that it has been continuously walked for years and that they only erected their barriers once the formal route from Dunster Beach was all but completed and being used."
Jim Butterworth, Woodcombe, Grove Road, Blue Anchor, Minehead, TA24 6JX email: email@example.com
this submission on behalf of all those who felt strongly enough to attend the site meeting in November 2017 as reported in the local paper dated 24th November 2017.
Officer report to County 2018 - misleading + no Cllrs on the Regulation Committee from this area (our representatives argued the case but were ignored)
No evidence of County asking about updates or confirmation of definitive paths since 1959
Lack of commonsense providing the new TCP within a few feet of the CLAIMED PATH, but over uneven and slippery pebbles. My wife already fallen - had to be helped up.
The insurance position (bearing in mind that the Chalet Owners site goes all the way to the LOW tide mark) - of an increased risk to walkers, having been forced down onto a slippery pebble beach, could claim against Landowners and the County
(photo above) When the road was realigned to make it safer for people leaving the station - the fence was renewed BUT the gap at the start of the footpath remained. So County accepted AT THAT TIME the presence of the valid CLAIMED PATH.
Is it right for County to be judge and jury on their own errors and omissions?
Annual access for raft race - some very big and must have used the Chalet Site for access
Historical reason for footpaths - to get from A to B. Who would use any path other than the CLAIMED PATH. Cannot be extinguished.
Walking groups - especially disabled - barred from enjoying coast towards Dunster. Countless holidays spoiled by selfish actions of one or two Chalet owners.
note position of easy steps onto the beach for the less able - and the Lifebelt - both in place and unchallenged for many years. Would either have been permitted if public access and the footpath didn't exist?
The CLAIMED PATH is reinstated
County construct a permanent and safe path where the TCP is at the moment
Steam Trail build their cycle path through the centre of the Chalet Site