I welcome the Minister of State and thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule to be here. I wish to raise the registration of rights of way and the coming deadline of November. I understand there are two methods by which rights of way can be registered. One is that the person who requires the right of way can contact the landowner or owners and ask them to sign an easement which can be lodged with the land registry. Alternatively, the person seeking the right of way can lodge an application with the land registry, which in turn contacts the landowner or owners, and if there are no issues, the person seeking it may go ahead and register the right of way.
There is a deadline of November pending for the registration of rights of way. I suggest the deadline be extended for several reasons, the main one being the public is simply not aware of it. People are not aware of what will happen or what they will have to do to register a right of way after that date. There is also the pandemic, which meant most businesses were closed. Those who were aware of the deadline did not have the opportunity to address the issue of rights of way because of the lockdown.
I wish to raise two related issues. Local authorities granting planning permission in areas where there are public walkways is an issue around the country. They grant planning permissions without being aware a right of way exists, perhaps a public walkway or beach front. There are examples which have caused friction in communities. I suggest the Department could issue a directive to all local authorities advising them that prior to granting planning permissions, they should be cognisant of any rights of way, and where there are local rights of way, the local authorities should take on the responsibility of registering them. It should not be left to members of the public to go through the expensive and arduous procedure.
There have been delays in requests for registration based on possession. I am aware it can take up to five or seven years for the process to complete. Will the Minister of State shed any light on the nature of the problem causing the delay? Is it staffing or something else? There is clearly a problem and there has been for some considerable time.
I would like responses to these, but in particular around the deadline that is coming in November and the lack of awareness among the public. They need to be made aware of it and advised what the procedure will be after November. I hope the Minister will extend the deadline and initiate an awareness campaign so that people know the changes and when they will happen.