In honour of International Women’s Day, we are thrilled to be celebrating the achievements of local community campaigner and Portsmouth Green Party activist, Anna Koor.
In this extended interview, we discuss Anna’s involvement in the ongoing campaign to get the road around Camber Dock in Old Portsmouth registered as a Public Right of Way. This is a longer blog post than usual, but I (Tamara) hope you will agree that it is worth the extra scrolling!
So to bring you up to speed, last week saw a significant win for the campaign; Portsmouth City Council was instructed by the Environment Secretary to raise an Order for a Restricted Byway.
Thanks to the steadfast dedication and campaigning of Anna Koor, Ken Bailey and the Camber Action Group, and with the support of the Open Spaces Society; the quayside path around the Camber is now on the road to becoming a Public Right of Way – which is what the campaign is all about! This milestone step towards the protection of our public access to this pathway comes after a lengthy four-year campaign of rejected applications and appeals.
“This is wonderful news Tamara”, I hear you cry! “But what does that actually mean? Raising an order? Public right of way? What is this language you speak?”
Well, dear reader, basically this means that Anna and the campaign are moving closer to their aim to ensure that this historic route finally becomes fully protected by law.
Headshot of community campaigner Anna Koor
But don’t just take my word for it, as to tell us more and to explain in plain English what this all means, Anna Koor is here with me.
campaign Chat Time with Anna
Tamara: Anna, welcome to Shades of Green and congratulations on the success of your appeal.
Let me start by saying I am feeling rather sheepish as I know next to nothing about public rights of way and raising orders, and so will probably be asking you some rather obvious questions!
Anna: Hi Tamara, it’s great to catch up with you and even better to also explain more about what a milestone this news is for people in Portsmouth.
Tamara: Before we get to the nitty-gritty of your recent triumph, please tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement in the community.
Anna: I’ve lived back in Pompey with my partner since 2005 – we both were here in our formative years as students at the Polytechnic in the 1980s. So in that respect, I do consider Portsmouth my spiritual as well as physical home. I’m self-employed as a book editor but also work locally as a barista and baker.
I am very involved in my local community and campaigns like Community Speedwatch. Speeding is something I could rant on about endlessly so a few years ago I signed up for Community SpeedWatch with some of my neighbours and we started doing education exercises on our 20mph streets.
I also joined the Green Party in March 2015 and ended up standing as a Green Party local council candidate. The Greens did really well across the whole city and from talking to voters I got the impression that they were fed-up with the three big parties and wanted an alternative.
The Camber dock
Boats on the Camber
Tamara: You seems to be very connected with your community. Where did the Camber Dock come in? I have to admit I don’t know much about it, apart from The Bridge Street Tavern pub!
Anna: The Camber Dock is just around the corner from us. One of our first discoveries, when we moved back to Pompey, was this little gem tucked away behind the Cathedral — the Camber Dock became our daily post-work ‘constitutional’.
The Camber Dock is part of the Old Portsmouth Conservation Area. It really is a hidden treasure – I think we must be the only seafront city with a fishing fleet right in the heart of the urban environment. The Camber is where Portsmouth was born – the city grew out of this little enclave centuries ago.
The land the Camber sits on is owned by Portsmouth City Council and is used by the Port– it, therefore, belongs to all of us and is a valuable heritage asset. The public – locals, visitors etc – have always used this quayside road along with users such as boat owners and fishermen.
Many of us would be unhappy to see this land sold and possibly lost to the public.
THE CAMPAIGN FOR RIGHT OF WAY BEGINS
Tamara: Gosh, I had assumed that as it was public land, the council would have to honour that. How did you get involved in campaigning to protect the area? What brought it to your attention?
Anna: Ken Bailey and I are the applicants who originally applied to the Council in 2014 to register the Right of Way. Ken was born and brought up in and around the Camber and still lives a stone’s throw from it – he remembers using it as a playground back in his youth.
It was only when we heard about the redevelopment plans at the Camber in 2014, to make way for the Ben Ainslie Racing building, that we got together with fellow residents because we were worried that the right of way we had all been using might be under threat. It wasn’t the building we were concerned about but the possibility that the route around the water’s edge might no longer be accessible to the public.
Tamara: I have no idea how to challenge the Council on public access other than complaining on Facebook, which as we all know isn’t always super effective! How did you and Ken go about it?
Anna: Well, when it became clear that the Camber quaysides were in danger of being blocked to the public, a group of us teamed up and joined the national Open Spaces Society in order to learn more about rights of way and what we could do to protect this route in law under Section 53 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Like you, I knew very little about rights of way other than thinking perhaps this could be a way of legally protecting this established route that the public have used for decades. We applied to Portsmouth City Council to have the definitive map and register amended to add a Right of Way.
Tamara: Definitive map? Is this like Google Maps but more authoritative?
Anna: *chuckles politely at Tamara’s terrible joke* Not quite – Definitive Maps are a legal record of all Rights of Way in England. They are kept by Surveying Authorities who have a duty to keep them updated. Portsmouth City Council is a Surveying Authority.
THE JOYS OF APPLYING TO THE COUNCIL
Tamara: Ahhh, I see. Thanks for explaining that. What did putting together the application involve? I can imagine it wasn’t simple and straightforward?
Anna: It has been a very long and drawn out process. Along with other volunteer supporters, we spent an age going through historic records in the Portsmouth History Centre. We scoured the minutes of council committees going back to when records began.
The process we used essentially involved supplying witness statements demonstrating that the Camber route had enjoyed uninterrupted use by the public over a 20 year period. We provided witness statements to that effect, along with documentary and photographic evidence of historic use.
Tamara: Anna, this sounds like SO much work! I feel overwhelmed just thinking about all the research and paperwork. With all this evidence behind you, why didn’t the Council approve the application?
THE FOUR-YEAR KNOCKBACK
Anna: Well, our first application in 2014 was refused, partly because the Council considered that a right of way around the quay edge would interfere with the duties of the Port, even though our evidence demonstrated that the public has always used this route in happy co-existence with port activities.
Tamara: I assume you took to Facebook in armchair rage at the futility of local politics?
Anna: Not exactly! Instead, we appealed to the Secretary of State. This was dismissed – not because of reasons to do with the port, but because of an amendment to government legislation. It is very convoluted, but to cut a long story short, we had no option but to make fresh applications in 2016 to the Council to record a different category of Right of Way – either a Restricted Byway or a Footpath.
Tamara: Please tell me this time the council agreed and they offered you the key to the city. (I have been watching a lot of ‘Parks and Recreation‘ lately.)
Anna: That would have been nice but no such luck. Again, the council refused.
Tamara: So far, it’s sounding like you were being knocked back at every turn. The Council rejected your application twice. How did you turn it around?
AN ORDER IS RAISED (THIS IS A GOOD THING)
Anna: Last year we appealed for the second time to the Secretary of State. This time, the Planning Inspector re-examined all the evidence and any fresh information we had unearthed and instructed Portsmouth City Council to raise an Order for a Restricted Byway. Ultimately, this will lead to getting the Right of Way registered on the definitive map.
View of the Camber
Tamara: Yes! Result! Anna and Ken against the Man! Just to clarify…asking for a friend – what does it mean to raise an Order?
Anna: Basically, to amend the definitive map by adding an established Right of Way, the Surveying Authority (Portsmouth City Council) needs to publish an Order which anyone has the opportunity to comment on.
Tamara: Whew, what a process to get to this stage! You and Ken have my admiration as I don’t know many people with your tenacity and perseverance. It must have been rather disheartening to do so much work and get numerous rejections. What kept you going?
*hums Tubthumping’s ‘Chumbawamba -I Get Knocked Down‘*
Anna: Really, it was the strength of feeling among the local community, the compelling evidence we found and the feeling that we had to see this through to some kind of just conclusion meant we felt compelled to Appeal. The only way we could feel that our case could be properly settled was by an independent Planning Inspector.
Tamara: Which is what has finally happened with the Planning Inspector instructing PCC to raise an Order for a Restricted Byway. I will definitely be commenting on this Order, in your favour obvs, when it is published. When is that going to be?
Anna: We hope this is now done without further delay and that this route finally becomes fully protected in law so that future generations can continue enjoying it.
Tamara: Thank you so much for speaking to me today. It has been a pleasure. Good luck with the rest of the campaign and please do come back and update us after the Order is published.
For more information or to get in contact with Anna Koor or Ken Bailey about the Camber Dock campaign, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also find out more about their appeal success here as reported in The Portsmouth News.
What are your thoughts on the Camber campaign? Have you ever gone up against the Council? Tell us in the comments below.