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Footpath pledge despite cuts in maintenance cash

PUBLISHED: 06:30 10 October 2011

Council bosses have pledged they will ensure public rights of way are enforced.

Council bosses have pledged they will ensure public rights of way are enforced.

Council bosses have pledged to get tough on landowners who do not keep public rights of way open, even though the authority is slashing its own spending on maintaining the footpaths.

As part of its package of cuts agreed after the Big Conversation consultation, Norfolk County Council has already agreed to cut spending on the 2,355 mile local rights-of-way network to save £578,000.

The council currently has a path-clearing programme, but that will stop completely by the end of this financial year.

Instead walkers will be asked to act as the council’s ‘eyes and ears’ to spot problems, with parish and town councils urged to help keep rights of way clear.

The council says, for instance, if a fallen branch blocks a footpath, a parish council would have the local knowledge to report that to the landowner responsible, with County Hall taking enforcement action if the landowner does not sort out the issue.

But the authority also hopes volunteers will help cut back vegetation on footpaths.

Bill Borrett, cabinet member for environment and waste said: “The county council is committed to meeting its duty to maintain all public rights of way in Norfolk, as defined and required by law. To do this we will be working even more closely with landowners and managers, local councils and voluntary groups.

“We will, as now, use our enforcement powers when necessary and under our new system, enforcement action should happen much more quickly.

“Previously, the county council’s approach relied on goodwill and cooperation. This had some success, but often involved delays. This will be a quicker, more responsive, more effective and more efficient arrangement.”

The cuts have concerned the Norfolk Ramblers’ group, while Liberal Democrat and Green councillors at County Hall have criticised the move.

The new enforcement regime will be discussed at a cabinet meeting today, where plans to develop the 400 miles of Norfolk’s 12 long distance paths, modelling them on the National Trails, will also be discussed.

dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

18 comments

  • As a regular walker I have rarely seen anyone abusing these rights of way or much dog fouling for that matter. What I have seen is many people straying off the designated routes, but this is so easy to do as many of the paths have been badly neglected for years with the way markers having long since tumbled into the undergrowth., which is such a shame because rightly promoted and well maintained they could be a massive tourist attraction to the area.

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    John L Norton

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

  • This is yet another example of County Council "Newsspeak". The truth is that they have a statutory dury to maintain the right of way and if they fail their is a remedy for individuals and parishes under section 56 of the highways act.

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    grahamjones128

    Monday, October 10, 2011

  • I can never understand why posts get blocked (or delayed) but returning to the original pont, NCC must be pressured on this. They have an obligation and must keep to it.

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    andy

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

  • Daisy Roots may well feel that landowners should have a right to prevent anyone other than country dwellers having access to the countryside but her view point is thankfully in the minority. Before she espouses her Dickensian views further perhaps she ought to read the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000)? Whilst there are many people who abuse the countryside there are far more who do not. If we wish to encourage respect for agriculture and the amenities that the countryside provides then educating people about the benefits it provides by encouraging them to visit it is surely a better solution than by making it more remote and unimportant and irrelevant to the majority of people who don't live and work in it?

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    Douglas McCoy

    Monday, October 10, 2011

  • This is madness! I have to agree with John Norton, this will be a disaster for tourism in Norfolk. Does Bill Borrett not remember the loss to the tourism industry when Foot and Mouth closed all the footpaths. Not only that, it shows complete disregard for the wellbeing of Norfolk residents, how else do most of us get access to a bit of fresh air and exercise other than a stroll in the countryside.

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    pebbles

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

  • As Chairman of Beckland Land Rover Club it is frustrating that all off roaders are tarred wih the same brush. For years we have worked with NCC clearing rights of way and are cuently in discussions to continue this. We have introduced voluntary restraint orders on RoW's we feel are over used and damaged, and have signposted these in the hope that others will do the same. Within our Club we have a Rover Rescue section that aids emergency services across our county in times when their vehicles struggle with road conditions or to get to parts that are inaccessible with cars. We aren't all bad, so give us some credit and do like we do - give up a bit of your own time to keep OUR rights of way clear and usable for everyone today, and generations in the future.

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    52s12.5

    Monday, October 10, 2011

  • What about proper tarmac'd footpaths that get left so long the bushes encroach on the footpath and rip the surface up, surely a false economy in the grand scheme of things, except that comes out of a different budget so someone elses problem no doubt!!

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    Richard_Waugh

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

  • We all enjoy using ROW and should do so in a responsible manner. Landowners also have an obligation and should be pressured to keep to it, even when there is livestock using the same part of the land. To those who say they have not seen dog fouling, dogs off leads, litter and crops adjacent being flattened I am frankly surprised if you have not. I don't agree that we should stop farm traffic using their own land, it is their living.

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    andy

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

  • Andy, Daisy Roots can speak for herself. My interpretation of her post is that she has labelled anyone other than a small number of country dwellers (whoever they are) as defilers of the countryside and the landowners as the hard put upon custodians. Well I was born a 'townie' and for the past 26 years I've been a country dweller and in my experience many of the people who live in the countryside and in the villages are those responsible for dog fouling. Of course there are people who abuse the countryside who don't work or live in it. However, how often have we heard of farmers and landowners pulling up hedgerows or selling barns for housing etc? Not all abuse comes from outside! By allowing restrictions to be placed on how people access the countryside by allowing ROW to become so disused and overgrown will only alienate those people who genuinely cherish it and eventually leave it more susceptible to unwanted development.

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    Douglas McCoy

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

  • I wrote to Bill Borrett directly twice about young children being stung by path under Council control completely blocked by nettles in a high tourist zone. He didn't even bother to reply..........nuff said

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    Lise

    Monday, October 10, 2011

  • The problem about not maintaining these footpaths is that when they do become completely overgrown they will cease to be used. Eventually, landowners will find excuses to argue that the footpath is not in use and apply to have it removed as a statutory right of way. Like it or not the public will in time find it harder and harder to visit the countryside. At a stroke more harm has been done to the future rights of people to visit the countryside in Norfolk than at any time since the Victorian era.

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    Douglas McCoy

    Monday, October 10, 2011

  • Douglas, You have a slightly different intrepretation of Daisy Roots remarks than I think she intended. I believe the main thrust of her point is that rights of way are often abused by unthinking individuals, either by wanton fouling of foot paths by dog owners - no matter where they come from - inconsiderate parking or the abuse of surrounding land, etc. I enjoy walking and make sure that I do park sensibly, respect what is there but it quite clear that many do abuse the privilege of the countryside. Not all farmers are angels either. Turning back to the original point, I don't believe we should let NCC get away with this. They have an obligation and should be made to keep to it.

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    andy

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

  • By not cutting footpaths, Norfolk County Council have single-handedly done more to deter tourists from visiting our area than any other thing I can think of. They do not realise the amount of people who come here to take in these walks. Several times this year I have met disgruntled holidaymakers having to turn back on these paths simply because they have become so overgrown they couldn’t get through.

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    John L Norton

    Monday, October 10, 2011

  • If the county council also did its job and enforced the regulations on those who use PROW it might do something to encourage landowners to do their expensive part in keeping the network clear. Every pass of a tractor mounted mower or roller costs money, just so people can roll up in their volvos, park and obstruct gateways and walk their dog off the lead. The bias is always against the landowner, never any NCC signs up pointing out clearly that it is a trespass to walk off the path or to let a dog run off the path into a field or theft to pick crops. ROW close to village centres and towns are not used for air and exercise they are used for letting dogs empty their bowels. No wonder salad and vegetable growers viewed the coastal path with trepidation. That's leaving aside the number of former green lanes that have had to be closed in winter because selfish off roader clubs churn them into a morass. The countryside is now full of people who know nothing about it and do not respect it. Preserving our old foot and bridle routes used by country people to get to work and go about their business is very important, but under the last government ,access routes over farmed areas became almost a punishment to those who pay to own the land they cross and have to look after them. With no disrespect to John, how would anyone else feel if they had to pay to keep their lawn cut for the benefit of those taking a holiday? If a path is used and needed it will be kept open by the treading of feet and too many walkers expect to trespass to take short cuts when they can't read a map to tell how long a path is, or for the paths to be like mown lawns. Instead of being "eyes and ears" and moaning about farmers, how about local rambler groups offering to get out the scythes and pruners? Or would that be too much exercise? No one expects to have to maintain a minor public road because they have a frontage to it, the council should have continue maintaining stiles, kissing gates and the surface of a right of way.

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    Daisy Roots

    Monday, October 10, 2011

  • Totally agree with John Norton and Pebbles. Only a few weeks ago I met a group of tourist ramblers who had picked up a free route in the local shop in Loddon and preceded to follow it along the river Chet only to find that the path had become so overgrown with head high nettles that they couldn’t get through. To say they were upset would be an understatement. I don’t think the likes of Bill Borrett or Norfolk County Council realise the damage the they are doing to our tourists industry and hence the local economy by not maintaining these paths.

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    Bloater

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

  • To return to the original point of this article, we should put pressure on NCC to live up to their obligations. There are many of us who regularly enjoy the countryside and rights of way need to be maintained. This applies equally to landowners who can be obstructive too but they are also users of the ROW and should not, as has been suggested, be prevented from using them to carry out farming their own land. The vast majority of users are well behaved too but if you have never seen dog fouling, dogs not on their leads, litter, flattened crops off the ROW, etc then I am more than a little surprised. We can all enjoy well maintained ROW, I am sure we have all encountered overgrown footpaths, etc and NCC must be made to live up to their obligations.

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    andy

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

  • Dear Daisy Roots, Firstly let’s correct one thing. Those of us who drive green lanes are NOT ‘off-roaders’, the byways we drive are public highways, and therefore the term ‘off roader’ is incorrect. I prefer the term soft-roader, which I feel is perhaps more appropriate. You mention damage that is caused by soft roaders, but is it? On some of these byways the damage is clearly caused by agricultural vehicles as the ruts are much deeper than could possibly be caused by any normal 4x4. Just look at the size of today’s tractors, and their tyres! There are several byways which I have been asking Norfolk County Council Highways if we could post voluntary constraints on; which would ask that these are not driven during the winter months. It’s a real struggle to get these proposals excepted! Of course, like everywhere in life, there are those who will ignore our laws and choose to ignore any signs. I’ve often asked myself why we see so many walkers on byways, (which have vehicular rights, and which only account for 2% of the public rights of way, in England) and my conclusion is that these are kept open by vehicular use which makes them relatively easy to walk. Whereas footpaths and bridleways are often found to be overgrow and poorly way-marked, (as, by the way, are the counties byways). So is this due to lack of clearance by the landowners as they become almost impassable, or the lack of use, which makes matters worse? There are soft roaders who respect the countryside and are offering to carry out voluntary clearance of ROW, but even this is proving more difficult every year with the bureaucracy within our county council. Surely the time has come when we are all allowed to enjoy the countryside in our own way?

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    navillus

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

  • I wrote to Bill Borrett directly twice about young children being stung by path under Council control completely blocked by nettles in a high tourist zone. He didn't even bother to reply..........nuff said

    Report this comment

    Lise

    Monday, October 10, 2011

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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