The Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body, has slated Swansea Council’s plan to dispose of open space on Kilvey Hill, north-east of the city. The disposal is to make way for Skyline Swansea Ltd’s gigantic tourist development which does not yet have planning permission, and to which the society has also objected.
In its objection to the disposal of open space, the society points out that, in line with the council’s own policy, the council can only dispose of land if it is surplus, and that if it ‘is currently required to deliver their operational functions’ (paragraph 2a), it is unlikely to be surplus.
Says Kate Ashbrook, the society’s general secretary: ‘The land clearly is not surplus, it is of immense public value. It is criss-crossed by unrecorded public highways, which the council has not yet added to the definitive map of public rights of way.’
‘The council has no up-to-date definitive map since it was not required to produce one until 1983. Many of the unrecorded routes are bridleways and restricted byways, so that horse-riders, cyclists, and carriage drivers are particularly adversely affected. While they have been pressing for these routes to be added to the map, the council has pleaded insufficient resources and has failed to add them.
‘Much of the land proposed for disposal is mapped as access land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, so that people have a right to wander freely here on foot. The threatened land is close to people’s homes, providing recreational opportunities on their doorstep. Open spaces and paths are vital for people’s health and well-being, more now than ever—as the pandemic highlighted.’
Kate continues: ‘The disposal of this magnificent stretch of land will be severely detrimental to local residents and will deny them the crucial chance to enjoy the outdoors without needing to travel.
‘We have told the Swansea Council that the land is not surplus to requirements, and that it would be unlawful for the council to dispose of it.’
A Swansea Council spokesperson said: “We completely refute the Open Spaces Society’s claim that any potential disposal by the council of this land would be unlawful.
“If the Skyline plans go ahead, then the company says the development would cover 9% of Kilvey Hill.
“As part of the development Skyline intend to allow free, unhindered access to Kilvey Hill to continue. All responses to the Public Open Space Notice will be considered before a decision is made.
“We have not received any applications to record unregistered routes on Kilvey Hill from the public, and the council is under no obligation to record them as formal public footpaths or bridleways.
“It is nonsense to claim we have don’t have an updated map. We produced a new edition of the definitive map last year, which shows the many footpaths and bridleways that have been added by the council since 1983. This includes five miles of public footpaths on Kilvey Hill that were recorded in 2012 despite opposition from the Open Spaces Society.”