POWYS County Council (PCC) needs to move a public footpath or risk breaking the law by building an agricultural building on top of it.

It was also pointed at a planning committee meeting that the authority may already be committing an offence if Footpath 29 already runs through an existing building, at Severn Side, Forden, near Welshpool.

Planning officers backed a proposal to extend an agricultural building at the dairy farm which would allow the tenant of the Powys County Council owned farm, to expand milk production.

PCC’s rights of way department had objected to the proposal by the strategic property department, due to the public footpath issue.

Powys County Countryside Services Definitive Map and Commons Registration Officer, Sian Barnes, said: “The application that came in some years ago (2010) was a farmyard proposal.

“Consultation was carried out but unfortunately due to the backlog of work we were unable to make the order.”

Ms Barnes explained that to allow a development, a diversion application would have been pushed forward in the queue.

And the the landholder told to pay the fee as they had been given preferential treatment.

Cllr Kathryn Silk (Liberal Democrat – Bwlch) said: “So, PCC is not prepared to pay the fee?

“Our expectation is, those diversions should be in place before the planning goes ahead.”

Cllr Silk believed the work moving the path first before building the barn extension should be a condition of any planning consent.

Committee solicitor, Colin Edwards, explained: “Obviously the obstruction of a footpath is or could be an offence.

“We’re not able to put a condition on a planning application for this particular situation as it’s dealt with under separate legislation.”

Ms Barnes added that her department was now investigating the situation and meetings between the departments and tenant would be taking place.

Cllr Phil Pritchard (Independent – Welshpool Castle) said: “Somebody has not done their job in years gone by. The tenant wants this to keep his farm going. Somebody should have picked this up and said we need that before this.

“It’s not acceptable to bring it here and ask us to circumvent the rules.”

Cllr Linda Corfield (Independent – Forden) believed that the viability of the farm should not be compromised and wanted assurances that the footpath would be dealt with.

Sian Barnes answered and again explained the process: “We understand your concerns, these diversions for a permitted development are given priority and brought to the front of what is a very long queue.

“Unfortunately we don’t have the resources to deal with them. The list gets longer as the team has been affected by significant cuts.

“It’s a very difficult area for us and we are doing the best we can on limited resources.”

Cllr Silk added that she was not opposed to the application: “But I am conscious of the fact that development over a public right of way is a criminal offence.

“I’m just bothered that PCC runs the risk of committing a criminal offence and maybe if it goes through the existing building has already committed a criminal offence.”

The application was passed with Cllr Silk abstaining on the “basis I don’t want PCC committing a criminal offence.”