(known in some areas as gulleys or gunnels) which are making it
easier to commit crimes such as robbery, burglary, arson and drug
dealing, rural affairs and urban quality of life minister Alun
Defra is considering applications to have 'crime hotspots' designated
under an initiative to cut crime facilitated by rights of way in
urban areas. The 14 applications already received for inclusion in
the first phase of this new initiative cover 74 areas considered to
be high priority by residents, police and local authorities. The
successful applications are expected to be announced in early July.
Mr Michael said:
'The ability to close off rights of way to prevent access by
criminals and vandals is good news for people whose lives have for
years been made a misery by crime. Until now, the inflexibility of
the rights of way legislation has prevented residents from doing
anything about alleyways that give criminals access to the backs of
residential properties and an easy means of escape.
'The aim is to target these measures on places where there are real
problems with crime facilitated by rights of way, and where other
methods of tackling crime have failed. That is why we are asking
local authorities to apply to have areas designated where they think
this power will be needed.
'In many cases they are redundant alleyways, provided when rear
access was essential for removing ashes and household waste and when
patterns of transport and waste collection were different from today.
'We are considering applications from 14 authorities for a total of
74 areas, and we expect to announce which areas will be designated in
early July. As with existing powers to close rights of way, where the
new powers are used, local authorities will be required to invite
objections to every proposal to divert or close a right of way a nd
take those objections into account.
'It is clear from the evidence that local authorities have included
in their applications that there is widespread support from local
residents and neighbourhood groups, who are fed up with the repeated
burglary, assault, arson, drug dealing and the general anti-social
behaviour that is associated with some alleyways. We have designed
the system to avoid the risk that important public rights of way
might be affected.
'Residents complain of falling house prices and difficulty selling
their homes because they are close to a problem alleyway. Some have
been forced to go to great lengths and personal expense to protect
their families through measures such as building high walls and
installing CCTV. But this does not always work, and for some the only
solution would seem to be closing the alleyway.
'Both from evidence in my own constituency and my recent experience
at the Home Office, I am acutely aware of the problems that some
communities face with crime and the relief that these new powers will
bring to beleaguered residents. They have considerable cross-party
support from MPs and are backed by local councils, residents and
police. That is why we have introduced them at the earliest
Frank Whiteley, the Association of Chief Police
Officers (ACPO) lead on anti-social behaviour and deputy chief
constable of Northamptonshire Police, said: which were not public
rights of way, which were either generating crime or providing
offenders with the means to evade the police. By working in
partnership with local residents and local authorities, such schemes
have been successfully implemented around the country.
'Evidence of the use of alley gates in parts of London has
demonstrated that a gate can bring down the number of rear access
burglaries by up to 90 per cent. We fully support this particular
method of designing out crime when appropriately applied to are as of
need and preferably delivered to complement a broader, partnership
approach to reducing crime in local areas.'
1. The following authorities have applied for designation:
Name of Local Authority Application Number of areas
Knowsley MBC 1 3
Manchester 1 25
Redcar and Cleveland 1 4
Dudley 1 1
Milton Keynes 1 1
Halton BC 1 1
Walsall MBC 1 5
Trafford MBC 1 7
Rochdale MBC 1 1
Salford 1 4
Hillingdon 1 3
Leeds 1 13
Rotherham 1 5
Bradford 1 1
Total 14 74
2. Applications can be viewed at the department's library at Nobel
House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR. Tel: 0207 238 6003.
3. The new powers to close or divert rights of way for crime
prevention arise from the long- standing criticism from MPs and
councillors that back-alleys on some housing estates provide easy
access to houses for burglars, provide a sheltered haven for drug
dealing and an escape route for offenders evading the police, while
no longer being used as a useful shortcut for the local community.
Existing procedures make it very difficult to close these rights of
way, and people find it difficult to understand the bureaucratic
obstacles to a common sense closure. At the same time, there has been
real fear that any new power might be misused, for example, to remove
rights of way in rural areas, or where there is no good reason to
close a useful alley or pathway.
4. In February, local authorities were issued with guidance on how to
apply to have areas designated. The guidance was prepared after a
wide-ranging public consultation last year, which included every
English local authority and police authority, the Local Government
Association, ACPO, and several other organisations with an interest
in rights of way.
5. Local highway authorities will usually take the
lead, working with crime and disorder reduction partnerships, police
authorities, local residents and user groups to formulate a
submission to the secretary of state seeking the inclusion of an
area, or areas, in a designation order. In county areas, the district
authority or the local crime and disorder reduction partnership may
be able to make a submission if the county council is unwilling to do
6. There is a phased approach to designating areas. The first
designation orders will be prepared for submissions received by 6
May. The areas where the need for these new powers is an immediate
priority will be identified.
7. The secretary of state proposes to review the first designation
orders not less than three years from the orders being made. This
review will provide an opportunity for us to assess the operation of
the provisions, taking stock of any lessons learned. It will also
ensure that proper account is taken of changing crime patterns. It is
envisaged that the review of the designation order may result in
amendment to, or revocation of, that order. This period will, in the
majority of cases, provide reasonable opportunity for highway
authorities to make the special extinguishment and diversion orders
they consider necessary. If it is necessary for any area to continue
to be included in the designation order after the three-year period,
it is anticipated the relevant highway authority wi ll need to make a
further submission to the secretary of state.
8. Areas for which submissions have been made, but are not included
in the first designation order, will be considered for inclusion in a
follow-up order. The date of the follow-up order will be determined
by an assessment of the nature and level of responses received. The
follow up order will be subject to a similar review process.
Applications received after this will be considered as and when they
9. There are still several procedural matters to be set out by a
statutory instrument to provide clarity to the administration, mainly
setting out the process which local highway authorities should follow
in making diversion or closure orders using the new provisions. This
statutory instrument will be laid before parliament shortly.
10. Copies of the guidance to accompany the crime provisions are
available from Defra publications, Admail 6000, London SW1A 2XX. Tel:
08459 556000. The commencement statutory instrument, report of the
consultation exercise and the guidance are available online.