Shortly every local authority in the land will receive a letter from the Ramblers imploring them not to neglect rights of way, when budget cuts need to be made.
The Ramblers feel strongly that short-term cuts will have a detrimental effect on an already fragile rural economy. Research shows that around £7.3bn was spent on visits to the countryside last year but blocked paths will dissuade people from venturing to the countryside.
The national walking charity fears that footpaths will return to the deplorable state they were in during the 1960s. In 1960 a walker was fortunate to reach the end of a footpath without impediment; such was the poor state of the footpath network. Forty years later and rights of way are heavily used by the public for walking for health; as a short-cut to local amenities and a gateway to a cheap day out.
Tom Franklin, chief executive of the Ramblers said: “We appreciate the difficult position local authorities are in right now with cuts needing to be made. But cutting back on rights of way work will not only have a far-reaching impact on revenue generated by local businesses but on the progress made by walking for health initiatives. People will stop using rights of way if they think their walk will be cut short by overgrown paths.”
The Ramblers is calling on the government and local authorities to recognise the value of walking and not make cuts that mean even a short walk is a challenge.