Just back from Hartley Wintney Parish Council (2 Aug 2010)
Many residents in and around Fleet, Dogmersfield and Hartley Wintney are aware of a back-door entrance to Fleet Services (up Pale Lane) providing semi-licit access to the M3, on the northbound carriageway towards London. Apparently local residents have complained about increased traffic in the area, and others are saying “there’s bound to be an accident one of these days” and similar – which is almost certainly correct if you think about it.
The response has been much what you would expect; rather than fix the rising bollards (apparently “they keep being vandalised”) instead the Police have been called-in, ANPR (license-plate reading) cameras have been installed, and we presume that threatening letters will soon be sent to people who are confirmed to be using this shortcut.
The interesting thing was the next part of the discussion. I am not a lawyer so take this all with a pinch of salt – but as I understood what was said at the meeting, apparently there would be very dubious grounds for prosecuting anyone at the moment:
- It seems that the shortcut is not “adopted highway” – ie: not under local government control – and apparently neither do Fleet Services own the ground which it crosses; so neither Council nor Services are apparently in a position to take action regarding its use.
- In addition I believe that they can’t prosecute people for trespass on either end of the shortcut – presumably this is something to do with the shortcut abutting two public highways, or something like that.
– thus I would agree with some of my Parish Councillors that the legal basis upon which anyone could be prosecuted for using the shortcut seems rather dubious.
At the council meeting it was stated that [some apparent authorities] were “quite certain” that they would have the ability to send letters and prosecute, but the sensation around the council table was that this “certainty” might be more grounded in hope than fact.
If the local council were to “adopt” the two meter stretch of road that spans across the verge then some force of law could be brought to bear, but until that time it seems that anyone facing prosecution would do well to enquire what foundation existed for prosecution?
In any case it’s probably worth avoiding the shortcut unless you are someone who’s supposed to be using it – which in essence is what they want to achieve.