AN important forum set up to allow private individuals to have a say in the future planning of rights of way in the Yorkshire Dales National Park has just completed its first year - and has been pronounced a major success.
The Yorkshire Dales Local Access Forum was set up last year to allow national park planning officials to hold regular meetings with respresentatives of other interested bodies like landowners, farmers, walkers, horse riders and the tourist industry.
The idea was that local people could have their say in choosing places of access when the so-called "right to roam" bill comes into force next year - legislation which has not met with a warm welcome in many quarters.
The forum has just published its first annual report after five meetings during the year - and has been judged a success.
Says Ben Heyes, forum vice chairman and agent to the Bolton Abbey Estate: "The rights of way network is invaluable - not only in the role it plays in attracting customers to support our rural businesses and communities, but also because of the opportunities it provides for people to get out and about in the fresh air and enjoy the countryside.
"The national park authority continues to work hard addressing the challenges of maintaining and improving the existing rights of way network; increasing access for those who cannot easily use all of the current paths, particularly those experiencing mobility problems or visual impairment, whilst balancing that use with the essential management of the land by the farming and land-owning community."