A MAN who says City of York Council told him it could take it 29 YEARS to decide on his application for a public right of way is to receive £250 in compensation.

The authority has apologised to Graham Cheyne for the distress and uncertainty caused by the delays in making a ‘definitive map modification order’ on his application for a right of way across a field in Fulford.

It has also said it is working to tackle a backlog of other historic rights of way applications across the city, following criticisms by the Local Government Ombudsman.

Mr Cheyne, of Fulford, who wants an order to cross a field between Landing Lane and Naburn Lane, said: “I’m 70 in a couple of weeks time and very much doubt I’ll still be around in 29 years time to benefit from such an order.”

He said he had already been waiting for about seven years since first applying and he felt such applications should be determined within a year.

He especially wanted one in Fulford in time so another local resident, Doreen Crawley, who is 95, could cross the field again, having done so for many decades until access was lost about seven years ago.

The Ombudsman said in a report that councils must prepare and keep up-to-date ‘definitive maps’ to show public rights of way in their areas.

It said that two years after applying to the council, Mr Cheyne asked the Secretary of State to direct the council to decide his application and an inspector directed it to do so within 12 months.

It later refused, Mr Cheyne appealed and the inspector found enough evidence to support the claimed right of way but also credible evidence conflicting with this, and again directed the council to make an order, with a possible public inquiry to decide if the order should be confirmed.

Mr Chenye told the Ombudsman the council had suggested it would take 29 years before it could make an order.

The report said the council said that Mr Cheyne’s comment about a 29 year wait “might be a little high but not excessively so”. Its position was that the law required it to act as soon as reasonably practicable and not by any timescale, and it did not believe public rights existed over the route.

The Ombudsman said that when orders were opposed, people could attend a public inquiry and describe their use of a claimed path but, as years passed, people moved away, or might die or become unable or unwilling to take part in an inquiry.

“The ability to test the written evidence before an independent inspector is therefore likely to be of importance in deciding whether the order is confirmed," the Ombudsman said.

The official added: “I am concerned the council appears to find it acceptable to work at a pace that means Mr X (Mr Cheyne) may wait 29 years before it makes an order on his application.”

City of York Council said it accepted the Ombudsman’s findings and apologised to Mr Cheyne.

“We have a backlog of historic rights of way applications and are working to resolve them as quickly as we can,” said a spokeswoman.

“In the coming months a report will be taken to councillors which will present a number of options to enable these historic applications to be progressed in a more timely manner.”