One of the long-standing frustrations when dealing with countryside access has been the lack of easily-available information on the minor road network, particularly unsealed minor roads, and this frustration has only grown as more-and-more information on both surfaced roads, and the rights of way network, has become available online. If you’re looking for a surfaced road, then ‘coloured’ roads on OS maps or any decent SatNav system will show you where to go. If you’re looking for a right of way (BOAT, Restricted Byway, Bridleway, or Footpath), then the OS maps or the Local Authority / Highway Authority online maps will guide you on your way (errors and omissions excepted).
But unsealed unclassified roads have, until now, always fallen into an information gap between surfaced roads on one hand and rights of way on the other. The knowledgeable have always been able to head-down to their local highway authority to study the List of Streets (assuming that it’s in a user-friendly format) but what happens when you’re looking for somewhere distant where you can legally drive? It’s true that the situation got a lot better when the Ordnance Survey added the ORPA classification to their maps but that was, in principle, a once-off exercise and the OS has no mechanism for adding ‘new’ ORPAs to their maps.
This is a huge step forward but, before everyone gets too excited, it’s important to remember that the National Street Gazetteer is “a repository for combining the Local Street Gazetteers” and, as such, is only as good as the information supplied by the local Highway Authorities. A quick analysis, by LARA, has revealed a wide variation in both the quantity and quality of this information. At the better end, some HAs have included their rights of way data allowing a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all access information. At the worse end, some HAs appear to have ignored all of their unsealed roads.
The findmystreet website provides links to report ‘Missing Streets’ but LARA is asking all its member organisations, and their members, NOT to report missing streets on an ad-hoc basis as we are concerned that a tsunami of single street-by-street reports will overload the Highway Authorities. LARA will be co-ordinating consolidated lists of missing streets for the most important (to us) Highway Authorities and submitting these at the appropriate time. We’ll keep you posted.