In 1995 a BOAT application was made for a section, at Pirton, Herts, of the well-known Icknield Way which is said to be one of the oldest roads in England and to run from Wiltshire to Norfolk. The Pirton section was the subject of a bridleway order in 2011. It runs for 1.6 miles to the south of the village of Pirton and provides links to bridleways and footpaths to the village. After close consideration, Herts CC decided that the way should be a bridleway – and in 2011 ordered accordingly. The TRF, supported (curiously) by the local footpath society, objected and argued that the Icknield Way historically was a vehicular through route, that rights for vehicles had been established, and that these had not been stopped up when an inclosure award in 1818 identified the route as a bridleway. Reliance was placed on the judgment in R v SSE ex parte Andrews , based on an assertion that the award was unlawful in having set out the way at less than the statutory 30ft. An inspector accepted these arguments and in Jan 2013 provisionally modified the order to BOAT status.
GLEAM and GLPG members objected and argued that there was no clear evidence of historic vehicular use, that the records had not been properly considered, that Roman use did not legally give rise to public vehicular rights, and that a reputation of drove road use attached. Close attention was also paid to the historic road pattern in the area and it was demonstrated that the way was not a public vehicular through route.
The interpretation of Andrews was challenged meticulously by GLPG, together with the professional assistance of James Pavey of Thomas Eggar LLP (Hon. Adviser to GLEAM) who was advising the local Icknield Way Action Group. Apart from the fact that Andrews is currently under challenge in the courts, the question was also raised as to an inspector’s jurisdiction to hold that an inclosure award was invalid.
Extensive motor vehicle user evidence was produced to show that the way had been dedicated since 1818 if not already of vehicular status, although this was not relied on by the TRF advocate at the public inquiry. GLPG argued that such evidence was in any case irrelevant for legal reasons, and was not sufficient to show dedication.
In the event, the inspector in Jan 2014 accepted GLEAM’s interpretation of the historic evidence so that, in the absence of existing vehicular rights, all the legal argument relating to the inclosure award was irrelevant. As no reliance had been placed on modern user evidence, the original bridleway order was confirmed without modification. The TRF recognised defeat by not appealing.