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Council urged to take action to signpost Norfolk’s ‘secret paths’

PUBLISHED: 10:31 26 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:30 26 January 2018

A footpath with a missing signpost in Snettisham. Picture: Ian Witham / Open Spaces Society.

A footpath with a missing signpost in Snettisham. Picture: Ian Witham / Open Spaces Society.

Ian Witham / Open Spaces Society

Council bosses have been urged to end the “scandal of secret paths” in Norfolk by campaigners who said the authority is failing its statutory duty to provide signposts.

The Open Spaces Society and the Ramblers helped secure the provision in the Countryside Act 1968 which requires a highway authority to erect and maintain a signpost where a public path leaves a metalled road.

And 50 years on, campaigners in Norfolk said dozens of these signposts are missing – either because they have been knocked down or removed, or because aesthetic wooden signposts have been used rather than more robust metal ones.

Ian Witham, the Open Spaces Society’s correspondent for Norfolk, said: “Signposts are important because they give people the confidence to use and enjoy public paths, which are public rights of way and highways in law.

“Although paths are marked on Ordnance Survey maps, many people are deterred from using them if there is no indication that a route is a public path. In any case, paths can be closed or moved making the maps out of date.

“Without a signpost, a path can be a well-kept secret.

“That is why we pressed for the inclusion of the signposting duty in the Countryside Act and why we are dismayed to find that there are still many missing signposts.”

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “We’re very proud of the wonderful variety of landscapes that the footpaths and cycleways across the county enable people to explore. Our gold standard network of Norfolk Trails covering over 1,200 miles already sees one million visitors a year and we believe many people will find a lot of footpath signage is better than ever. For example we have recently completed a revamp of the signage along the full length of the Peddar’s Way trail which runs between Knettishall Heath and Holme-next-the-Sea.

“We have a rolling programme of replacing lost or damaged signs. We would urge the Open Spaces Society to report any missing signs to us and we can take a look into the matter. With a network of 2,400 miles of footpaths in the county we often rely on people being our eyes and ears and to let us know of any issues that may crop up between our scheduled inspections.”

The Open Spaces Society has gathered examples of missing signposts in the parishes of Bacton, Banham, East Ruston, Happisburgh, Knapton, Mundesley, Northrepps, Overstrand, Salthouse, Snettisham, Sporle-with-Palgrave, Swaffham, Trimingham, Westwick and Witton.

Mr Witham said they had all been reported to the county council, including the one pictured in Snettisham, which was reported in December 2012.

A council spokesman said a work order had been issued for that particular sign, and a new post will be installed “in the near future”.

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