‘Unprecedented’ farmland visitors during lockdown must be warned of rural dangers, say agents
PUBLISHED: 09:30 08 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:47 08 May 2020
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An “unprecedented” upsurge in people using farmland footpaths during the lockdown has prompted warnings for landowners to take steps to protect livestock and ensure public safety in the countryside.
Rural advisors at Savills say they have received a spike in enquiries from farmers and landowners asking for advice on how to manage the increase in visitors who are walking on their land for their daily exercise.
Joshua Spink, from the rural management team at Savills Norwich, said actions could be taken to limit the risks of the public getting too close to dangerous farm machinery, or loose dogs attacking young lambs and livestock.
“The delights of the British countryside are an undoubted pleasure – possibly more so at the moment than at any other time,” he said. “But over the last month or so, as lockdown has continued and the good weather persisted, many of our clients have reported an unprecedented number of people accessing their land, both on and off registered footpaths.
“More often than not these areas are close to a working environment which is potentially very dangerous. At this time of year there’s also the additional worry of having young lambs and livestock, particularly when walkers are out with dogs.”
Mr Spink said robust health and safety policies and procedures are essential, but landowners also need to warn visitors of any foreseeable dangers – and it is also a good opportunity to ensure rights of way documentation is up to date and lodged with councils.
“While ongoing maintenance of all footpaths should continue, including dealing with potentially hazardous trees, additional actions such as tying gates open to reduce the need for walkers to touch them and displaying notices requesting that users follow social distancing guidelines can all help,” he said.
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“Signage is key. If there are farming operations that are happening or livestock close to footpaths, then it’s important to warn members of the public to be careful and keep dogs on leads for example.
“It’s also possible to temporarily offer an alternative route to avoid gardens and farmyards. However any diversions should be clearly signposted as being permissive rights and the existing route must be kept open. This will ensure that any measures that have been temporarily put in place can be removed once current movement restrictions come to an end.”
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