Caravan enthusiast challenges use of boulders on right of way in Glenarm
The blocking of a public right of way with boulders has prompted an angry reaction in Glenarm.
A pathway beside St Patrick’s Church had boulders put in place by Mid and East Antrim Council obstructing access to what is known locally as the “Island”.
One regular user, who brings his caravan from Carrickfergus to the seafront location, said: “I have been taking my caravan down there every weekend for the past five years.”
He indicated that on occasions, there have been as many as 15 caravans at the waste ground site.
He challenged any suggestion they had been put in place for “health and safety reasons”.
“Mid and East Antrim has a specific duty to assert protect and keep open rights of way,” he stated.
“Far from protecting these ancient rights, the council is blocking this public right of way.”
He claimed the boulders have been put in place “to stop caravaners going down there for free”.
A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: “It is a public right of way for pedestrians only.
“Boulders have been put there for the safety of pedestrians using the path and to protect the natural environment from vehicles.”
Work is being progressed by the council to see how access to the former fish factory site in the coastal village can be managed safely to ensure camper vans park in a “designated site” to enable accommodation for up to 30 vehicles.
Mid and East Antrim councillors have expressed concern over the arrival of 51 camper vans on a Saturday during the first May bank holiday weekend at the with visitors parking in close proximity to each other. Click here
The issue was first highlighted last summer when as many as 55 were reportedly parked on the site at one time.
NI Direct says a public right of way is “a highway which any member of the public may use as a right” and is a “permanent legal entity and remains in existence unless and until the path is extinguished or diverted by due legal process”. However, it may be limited to certain users, for example walkers only or walkers and horse riders.
A footpath is open to walkers only but a carriageway is open to other users including horse riders, cyclists and motor vehicles.
NI Direct also states: “Each council has a specific duty to assert, protect and keep open any public right of way and to make and preserve maps and other records of the rights of way in its area.
“The council must enforce the public’s common law rights of passage and investigate and record where those rights exist.
“Although the council has a duty to assert, protect and keep open and free from obstruction any public right of way, it can also make and confirm orders temporarily to divert or close any public right of way.
“The public has a right to be made aware of any orders that are made permanently to divert, extinguish or create a public right of way or to give a right of access to open country.”
A council officer’s report presented to the borough council’s Direct Services Committee earlier this year stated that a map of “asserted public rights of way” is available on request and that signage has not been erected by the local authority due to “concerns of the environmental impact with increased footfall and impact on neighbouring properties”.
The borough council was responding to a DAERA (Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) consultation into outdoor recreation in Northern Ireland.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter
Thank you for reading this article. We’re more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers. Please consider purchasing a copy of the paper. You can also support trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription of the News Letter.