Ramblers call for tougher action to ensure Norfolk and Suffolk footpaths can be used

A fallen tree over a Norfolk public footpath. Pic: Ian Witham.

A fallen tree over a Norfolk public footpath. Pic: Ian Witham. - Credit: Ian Witham

Impassable footpaths, rights of way which are blocked by fences, crops growing over routes and misleading signs which deter walkers from hiking.

Those are among problems encountered by ramblers in Norfolk and Suffolk, who say council bosses should do more keep paths clear.

The Ramblers today released the results of the Big Pathwatch, the nation's biggest ever footpath survey, which revealed 6,991 problems on paths in the East of England.

A total of 1,806 problems were found in Norfolk in six months from July last year to January this year.

Ian Mitchell, Ramblers Norfolk area footpath co-ordinator, said: 'By far the greatest number of problems were to do with signage, whether at the roadside or on the route of the path.'

He said, usually that did not render the path unusable, but it did in 67 cases.

Other issues were barbed wire across paths, and crops being grown on rights of way. Overhanging vegetation and undergrowth along a path led to paths being considered unusable in 116 cases.

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The survey comes after The Ramblers and Open Spaces Society called for Norfolk County Council to take action to improve on its poor reputation in maintaining and promoting its rights of way network. That has been near the bottom for 'satisfaction with public rights of way' in a national survey for three years in a row.

Ken Hawkins, Ramblers Norfolk secretary, said it was the council's duty to asset and protect public rights of way, but acknowledged the council had to make tough decisions about how money is spent.

But he said: 'It follows that money spent on footpaths is a good investment, both financially in spending on local businesses and services and for people's well being, which also has economic benefits in savings on later health care.'

He said the council did good work in keeping the Norfolk Trails clear, but other routes needed to be enforced. He asked for the poor satisfaction issue to be referred to the Local Access Forum.

But the call was rejected by Martin Wilby, chairman of the council's environment, transport and development committee.

He said the council addressed issues in a 'proportionate way'. He said public opinion was that increased expenditure on public rights of way was 'difficult to justify given the constraints on budgets'.

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