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URL Special Character Rewrites

Hello,

I am finding URLs containing special characters are getting re-written.
So, for example, & gets turned into & and " gets turned into "
When I try to open a link (containing an &, ", etc.) that is stored in a URL field, the link doesn't work.
(Same problem in both Providence and Pawtucket2).

I suspect that the change is being done by PHP, somewhere(?)

I think that it should be possible to include some rewrite instructions in the .htaccess file to overcome this.
I have tried adding the following (to [...]/html/providence/.htaccess), to deal with just the ampersand (in Providence):

test to turn & (back) into &

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} \s(.?)\&amp\;([^\s]) [NC]
RewriteRule ^ /%1&%2 [L,NE,R]

This is not working.
Any suggestions on what I am doing incorrectly here.
Or any thoughts on how I can stop the change happening in the first place?

[I am using: Providence 1.7.5; Pawtucket2 1.7.5; CDWA Lite; Centos 7.6; Apache 2.4.6; PHP 7.1]

With thanks,
Clifford.

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