Norfolk Area Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society have called on Norfolk County Council to do more about the state of our County footpaths.
The Ramblers and Open Spaces Society have today called for Norfolk County Council to take action to improve on its poor reputation in maintaining and promoting its rights of way network.
Only a few weeks ago, the Council celebrated the opening of the latest stretch of the England Coast Path, from Hopton on Sea to Sea Palling. At the opening, the Chairman of the County Council, David Collis, joined Lord Gardiner (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Andrews Sells (Chairman of Natural England) to tell the gathered audience about the great benefits that walking – and the availability of footpaths – brought to the whole community: individual benefits in physical and mental health, and economic benefits to the county.
The Ramblers – who agree entirely with this – wondered then why the same considerations did not apply to the rest of the county’s 2400 mile public rights of way network. They wrote to the Chairman to ask about this, pointing out that the Council as Highway Authority has a duty to assert and protect public rights of way in Norfolk. Since then, the results from the 2016 Highways and Transport Network Survey have been published .
The Council is rightly pleased that, for the third year in a row, it has been in the top 3 of 28 similar counties for Highways and Transport matters overall. But it overlooked the fact that, also for the third year in a row, it is in the bottom half dozen for ‘Satisfaction with public rights of way’ – this year being 25th out of 28.
The Ramblers and Open Spaces Society have therefore put a question to the meeting of the Council’s Environment, Development and Transport (EDT) Committee on 11 November, to ask: “If Norfolk is serious in aspirations to promote itself as a preferred tourist destination, public satisfaction scores should be brought towards the top of the list. Will the Committee refer this as a significant concern to the Local Access Forum (LAF) and ask them to bring forward proposals, or does the Committee have other proposals to address this?”
Norfolk has an amazing network of public rights of way, but fails to promote and maintain them, and thereby fails to secure the health and financial benefits that are there in return for modest investment and effort. The Ramblers and Open Spaces Society hope the EDT will take an initial step to change this. Ramblers spokesman Ken Hawkins will be attending the meeting of the EDT at 1000 on Friday 11 November to hear the response. County Council meetings are open to any member of the public who wishes to attend – further information about this meeting can be found here: http://norfolkcc.cmis.uk.com/norfolkcc/Meetings/tabid/70/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/397/Meeting/426/Committee/18/SelectedTab/Documents/Default.aspx
The LAF is the Local Access Forum, which represents a variety of countryside interests with regards to improving public access across our beautiful county, and provides independent strategic advice to the County Council and others where there are issues around public access – see https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/nlaf.