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GUIDANCE PUBLISHED ON ACCESS TO THE COUNTRYSIDE

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New guidance for local authorities published today recommends ...
New guidance for local authorities published today recommends
relaxation of restrictions on public use of rights of way in England.
Restrictions should now only apply to infected premises and
agricultural land and premises within 3km.
It also makes clear that rights of way users must continue to take
responsibility for avoiding spreading FMD, by following published
codes.
Based on revised MAFF veterinary risk assessment, the guidance states
that except near Infected Premises or where people have recently
handled farm animals, the risk of spreading foot and mouth is very
low. Local authorities would be justified in reopening all paths,
bridleways and open land outside of 3km Protection Zones.
With the FMD outbreak in decline and the survival of the virus on
land reduced by the recent hotter, drier weather, the already low
likelihood of walkers and other path users spreading the disease, is
now even lower.
The new guidance recommends that:
* regulatory controls on public access to the countryside are only
needed within the 3km zones around infected premises
* rights of way users should continue to take responsibility for
minimising any remaining risk of spreading the disease by
following the guidance which will be widely available
It provides a much simpler framework to help local authorities take
decisions on re-opening paths.
In counties where there has never been a confirmed case of foot and
mouth disease, or where previous infected status has been lifted,
local authorities are recommended to proceed rapidly with opening all
rights of way.
Local authorities in counties with infected areas will be able to
consult maps showing the 3km protection zones and should be able to
re-open rights of way outside those zones.
In areas where outbreaks are still occurring, local authorities are
encouraged to consider with MAFF temporary additional precautionary
measures to support reopening such as installation of disinfection
equipment or wardening.
NOTES
1. Guidance for Local Authorities in England on Public Access to
the Countryside on the Rights of Way Network has been published
jointly by the Ministry of Agricultural, Fisheries and Food and
the DETR. The
revised veterinary risk assessment was completed on 18 May 2001.
2. A copy of the revised guidance, including the Codes for use on
open public rights of way/access land in infected and outside
infected areas, is attached.
3. Interactive maps showing the boundaries of all 3km zones around
Infected Premises are available on the MAFF website.
4. See LGCnetfor the Welsh environment minister's comments.
GUIDANCE FOR LOCAL AUTHORITIES IN ENGLAND ON PUBLIC ACCESS TO THE
COUNTRYSIDE ON THE RIGHTS OF WAY NETWORK
INTRODUCTION
1. Veterinary Risk Assessment No. 4 (21 March), on the risk of
spreading Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) through use of rights of
way, has been revised to take account of the significant change in
the disease situation in Great Britain since it was written. This
enables further, significant, relaxation of current restrictions
on use of rights of way. This guidance, based on the revised risk
assessment, replaces that previously issued to Local Authorities1.
The relevant legislation has not changed. Key documents are:
i) Veterinary Risk Assessment No.4 (Revised May 2001) 'What is the
risk of causing new outbreaks of FMD if footpaths are open to the
public?', posted on the MAFF FMD website on 23 May 2001;
ii) the Foot-and-Mouth Disease (Amendment) (England) (No.7) Order
2001, made on 10 May, 2001 (which replaces Parts III and IV of the
FMD Order 1983 by consolidating changes made by the No. 4, 5 and 6
Amendment Orders);
iii) the Foot-and-Mouth Disease (Amendment) (England) (No.4)
(Amendment) Order 2001 (which contains the Transitional Provisions
allowing the partial revocation of declarations covering entire
areas).
SUMMARY
2. Regulatory controls over public access to the countryside must
be proportionate to the risk of spreading FMD, taking account of
the prevailing disease situation. An ultra-precautionary response
was understandable and responsible in the early days of the
outbreak, and a risk based approach has informed action since the
end of March. The risks of spreading FMD through using rights of
way have, however, diminished: the disease has been brought under
control and the amount of infection in circulation has reduced,
and virus survival times on land are now shorter. The original
Veterinary Risk Assessment (No. 4) has been revised to reflect
this and now recommends that regulatory controls on public use of
rights of way should be confined to agricultural premises and
agricultural land within 3 Km. of Infected Premises (i.e. within
Protection Zones). Elsewhere, responsibility for minimising any
remaining risk of spread should rest with path users following
published codes. This is consistent with the general approach to
disease control measures where for example controls on animal
movements have been eased significantly in the past few weeks.
3. The advice now provides a much simpler framework for local
authorities to take decisions on re-opening paths and should
enable rapid re-opening of all closed paths, or access land,
except those within, crossing or leading to 3 Km. Protection
Zones. The Framework should no longer be needed in making
decisions on re-opening rights of way.
THE REVISED VETERINARY RISK ASSESSMENT
4. The revised Veterinary Risk Assessment states that 'It is
theoretically possible that walkers could carry infection to
previously uninfected animals, although there is no evidence that
this has actually happened and the risk, if any, is small in
comparison to other transmission risks'. It goes on to explain
that the risk of spread 'is the product of many factors, including
the prevalence of infection in an area, the presence or absence of
susceptible livestock, and the density of the livestock present'.
And that, 'Whatever [the disease] status of an area there is only
a very small risk that walkers who have not recently handled or
been in direct contact with susceptible livestock will introduce
infection from elsewhere, or spread infection from one premises to
another'.
5. In summary, the risk assessment concludes that 'the single most
effective method of reducing any risk posed by walkers is to
ensure that they have not handled or been in contact with
susceptible livestock before or during their visit'. This can be
achieved by a combination of:
i) regulatory controls on access to Infected Premises and land
within 3Km of them; and
ii) the public accepting responsibility to the owners and
occupiers of land which they cross through observing guidance on
the precautions they should take - which differs within and beyond
Infected Areas2.
6. Although Veterinary Risk Assessment No. 4, and the revised
version of 18 May, refer explicitly to walkers using footpaths,
the principles apply equally to other rights of way and access
land and their users e.g. cyclists, horse-riders.
RESTRICTIONS WITHIN INFECTED AREAS
7. Taking account of the fact that infection may be present but
unrecognised in Infected Areas, that this is most likely on land
close to an Infected Premises on which FMD has recently been
confirmed, and that the risk diminishes with time, the following
action is recommended :
i) prohibit public access to Infected Premises and any
agricultural land (including open land) within 3 Km. of those
Infected Premises;
ii) allow public access to all other paths, bridleways and open
land, but publicise and seek the co-operation of users in
observing the precautions set out in the Code;
iii) specifically, through the Code, ask path users not to take
dogs, even on a lead, where cattle are present.
PRECAUTIONS OUTSIDE INFECTED AREAS
8. In these areas it is extremely unlikely that walkers will come
into contact with viable FMD virus and the risk of transmission
from one farm in the area to another is vanishingly small.
Nevertheless, there is still some risk, and it remains possible
that infection may be introduced to the area from elsewhere. Local
Authorities should publicise and seek the co-operation of walkers
in observing the precautions set out in the Code. In these areas
path users are requested to keep dogs on a short lead where
livestock is present.
ACTION TO BE TAKEN IN RE-OPENING RIGHTS OF WAY
Counties and Unitary Areas where there has never been a confirmed
case of FMD, or where a previous Infected Area has been lifted
9. In the light of the revised veterinary risk assessment, Local
Authorities for counties where there has never been a confirmed
case of FMD, or where a previous Infected Area has been lifted,
are recommended to proceed rapidly to re-open all rights of way.
In doing so, they should discuss with the local farming and
land-owning representatives the need to inform farmers of what
they intend to do and why. They should also take action to
publicise widely the precautions which path users should follow -
making it clear that while FMD remains present in some parts of
the country, path users have a responsibility to farmers to take
simple precautions to minimise any remaining risks of spreading
FMD.
Counties containing Infected Areas
10. Local authorities for counties containing Infected Areas
should consult maps showing the 3 Km Protection Zones around
Infected Premises, which are available on the MAFF website at
http://www.maff.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/fmd/maffgis.htm and are
updated regularly, and are recommended to proceed rapidly to
re-open footpaths outside those Zones. In doing so, they should
discuss with the local farming and land-owning representatives the
need to inform farmers of what they intend to do and why.
Thereafter, the MAFF website should be checked regularly so that
additional paths can be re-opened as soon as 3 Km.
Protection Zones are lifted.
11. In those areas where FMD outbreaks continue to occur, albeit
in very significantly reduced numbers (such as Cumbria), local
authorities are encouraged to work with local veterinary advisers
and local farming and land-owning interests to develop any
additional precautionary measures to support re-opening of access,
although this goes beyond the minimum recommendations in the risk
assessment. These measures should be kept under review in
consultation with local MAFF staff. The measures might include,
for example, installation of disinfection equipment on controlled
access points to open land, wardening in areas of high intensity
use or temporary diversions for heavily used paths (offering
access to open land) which cross farmyards where stock are
regularly gathered.
New FMD outbreaks
12. Local authorities should remain alert to the possibility of
any new outbreaks occurring as has happened recently in North
Yorkshire. In the event of a new outbreak being confirmed and the
imposition of a new 3 Km. Protection Zone, local authorities
should act rapidly to close all footpaths within the 3 Km. zone.
If this results in the extension of an Infected Area boundary Code
B2 should be replaced with B1 on open paths and across land within
the new Infected Area but outside the 3 Km. Protection Zones.
LEGISLATION
13. The existing Orders:
i) provide the powers for complete or selectiverevocation of
existing restrictions.
ii) provide the power to close rights of way within Infected Areas
without written consent from the Ministry should this be necessary
(Article 28, FMD Amendment Order No. 7).
GENERAL QUESTIONS
14. Answers to commonly asked questions can be found below.
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions
May 2001

VETERINARY RISK ANALYSIS NO. 4 (REVISED MAY 2001)
WHAT IS THE RISK OF CAUSING NEW OUTBREAKS OF FMD IF FOOTPATHS ARE
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC?
1. SUMMARY OF RISK ASSESSMENT
If footpaths are open to the public, there is a risk that new
outbreaks of FMD will occur. Infection may result from
contaminated persons or accompanying animals arriving at the
footpath and subsequently passing on infection to livestock or by
persons or accompanying animals becoming contaminated while in the
locality of the footpath and passing on infection to livestock
then or at a later time.
The factors considered to be most responsible for increasing this
risk are:
* contact with infected premises or premises where animals have
been exposed to the risk of infection prior to arrival at
footpaths
* contact with livestock prior to arrival at footpaths
* failure to disinfect footwear prior to arrival at footpaths
* proximity of the footpath to livestock areas, including infected
premises and premises where animals have been exposed to the risk
of infection
* presence of accompanying animals
* failure to limit access for persons or accompanying animals from
footpaths to - livestock areas
* failure to limit access for livestock to footpaths, resulting in
deposits of faeces, urine, milk etc.
* contact with livestock while in locality of footpaths
* contact with surroundings (including pasture and foliage) while
in locality of footpath
* meteorological and environment conditions which influence virus
survival
* failure to disinfect footwear after leaving locality of
footpaths
* contact with livestock after leaving locality of footpaths
* contact with surroundings (including pasture and foliage) after
leaving locality of footpath
Of these, the major factors are:
* proximity of the footpath to livestock areas, including infected
premises and premises where animals have been exposed to the risk
of infection
* contact with livestock prior to arrival at footpaths
* contact with livestock while in locality of footpaths
* contact with livestock after leaving locality of footpaths
* failure to limit access for livestock to footpaths, resulting in
deposits of faeces, urine, milk etc.
SUMMARY OF RISK MANAGEMENT OPTIONS
This section identifies ways in which the risks which have been
identified can be managed, taking no account of whether the
management options are practical or proportionate to the level of
risk. Theoretical risk management options include: -
i. Closing all footpaths over land which may be grazed by
livestock, making public access a criminal offence.
ii. Closing footpaths only in areas where the risk of FMD virus
being present is greatest
iii. Preventing or discouraging access by those who keep or handle
susceptible livestock in the course of their work, and so are most
likely to have been exposed to and contaminated by FMD virus.
iv. Permitting access but encouraging the public
* to wear clean clothing and footwear so that they do not
introduce infection to an area;
* to avoid walking amongst livestock, and, in particular, NEVER to
handle or touch animals, and
* to use any disinfectant footbaths or pads which the landowner
may choose to provide.
v. Regulating access in accordance with the likelihood that
infected animals or their products may be encountered. The risks
are greatest on Form A and Form D premises, but these are already
controlled by statute. Elsewhere the risk diminishes with distance
as follows: -
* within 3km of an Infected Premises
* within an Infected Area
* within an 'At Risk Area' in a Controlled Area
* within a 'Provisionally Free Area' in a Controlled Area
* where no FMD controls are in force.
3. RECOMMENDED ACTION
i. FMD virus may be introduced to previously uninfected premises
in many ways: by airborne spread; by the movement of infected
animals, feed or bedding; and by the movement of people or
equipment contaminated with the virus. Transmission by people has
been recorded on many occasions, but those responsible have
generally had close contact with animals on infected, and then on
uninfected, premises. It is theoretically possible that walkers
could carry infection to previously uninfected animals, although
there is no evidence that this has actually happened and the risk,
if any, is small in comparison to other transmission risks.
ii. Even small risks can be further diminished by appropriate
action, but the cost may outweigh the benefit. There is a balance
to be struck between the need to control FMD and the damage that
controls do to other important industries, such as tourism.
Draconian action may be unnecessary and inappropriate,
particularly if universally applied.
iii. There is no veterinary justification for closing all
footpaths and preventing all public access to land. A more
measured response, which takes some account of both public
perception and of the real risk, is required. The latter is the
product of many factors, including the prevalence of infection in
an area, the presence or absence of susceptible livestock, and the
density of the livestock if present.
iv. Viable virus is most likely to be picked up on premises which
have been recently infected or exposed to the risk of infection by
human, animal or product movement, or by proximity. Where
infection is suspected or has been confirmed such premises are
subject to Form A or Form D restrictions respectively, and access
is prohibited by these restrictions. Elsewhere, infection may be
present but unrecognised. In diminishing order of risk we have
premises in infected and controlled areas (the latter divided into
higher and lower risk), and at some future date, in areas not
subject to any FMD controls.
v. Whatever the status of an area there is only a very small risk
that walkers who have not recently handled or been in direct
contact with susceptible livestock will introduce infection from
elsewhere, or spread infection from one premises to another. The
risk is greatest on land close to an Infected Premises on which
FMD has recently been confirmed and diminishes with time. A high
density of livestock increases the likelihood of contact between
walkers and animals, and so increases any risk of transmission.
vi. The FMD epidemic is now in sharp decline; the weather is
warmer and becoming drier. Although a few cases continue to occur,
some infected areas, or parts of infected areas, have had no
confirmed cases for many weeks. Virus excretion is localised and
infrequent, and any virus which is on pastures will not survive
for as long as it did in the winter months.
vii. For as long as FMD remains in Great Britain the single most
effective method of reducing any risk posed by walkers is to
ensure that they have not handled or been in contact with
susceptible livestock before or during their visit. These
individuals cannot be excluded by statute, but may be amenable to
following advice in the interest of the community at large.
viii. On the basis that this assumption is correct, the following
action can be justified in Infected Areas at this stage of the
epidemic:
* Prevent public access to infected premises and land within 3km
of those infected premises.
* Allow public access to all other paths, bridleways and open
land, but publicise and seek the cooperation of walkers in
observing the following precautions for the benefit of both
farmers and walkers:-
* do not enter if you have handled cattle, sheep, goats or pigs in
the last 7 days
* start your walk wearing clean footwear and clothing
* do not stray from the right of way onto adjoining land
* do not approach, and never touch or handle, livestock
* do not walk dogs, even on a lead, where there may be cattle
(because cattle are curious and approach dogs, and it may then be
impossible to avoid contact with them).
* take any waste, including food, home
* use any disinfectant footpads or baths which the landowner
provides.
ix. It is extremely unlikely that walkers will come into contact
with viable FMD virus in any part of a Controlled Area. The risk
of transmission from one farm in the area to another is therefore
vanishingly small, but it is possible that infection may be
introduced from elsewhere. At this stage of the epidemic the
following action can be justified in a Controlled Area: -
* Allow public access to all paths and rights of way, but
publicise and seek the cooperation of walkers in observing the
following precautions intended to protect the disease - free
status of the area: -
* do not enter if you have handled cattle, sheep, goats or pigs in
an Infected Area in the last 7 days
* start your walk wearing clean footwear and clothing
* do not approach, touch or handle livestock
* keep dogs on a lead wherever there are livestock
* take any waste, including food, home
* use any disinfectant footpads or baths which the landowner
provides.
CODE (B1) FOR USE ON OPEN PUBLIC RIGHTS OF WAY / ACCESS LAND IN
INFECTED AREAS
This Code should be promoted widely and in particular placed at
access entry points such as car parks and picnic sites as well as at
tourist information centres. Failure to do so risks irresponsible
behaviour and, thus, increases the risk of disease spread.
Please take special care to protect the countryside from foot and
mouth disease by following this Code
- If you have handled cattle, sheep, goats or pigs in the last 7
days please stay off all other farmland.
- Do not go near, and never touch, handle or feed livestock :
- if you come across them unexpectedly, move away slowly; if
necessary re-trace your route.
- Do not take dogs on land where there are cattle.
- Do not leave any waste food or litter.
- Stay on the path and leave all gates as you find them.
- Use disinfectant where provided.
- Start your walk or ride with clean equipment, footwear and
clothing.
CODE (B2) FOR USE ON OPEN PUBLIC RIGHTS OF WAY / ACCESS LAND
OUTSIDE INFECTED AREAS
This Code should be promoted widely and in particular placed at
access entry points such as car parks and picnic sites as well as at
tourist information centres. Failure to do so risks irresponsible
behaviour and, thus, increases the risk of disease spread.
Please take special care to protect the countryside from foot and
mouth disease by following this Code
- If you have handled cattle, sheep, goats or pigs in the last 7
days please stay off all other farmland.
- Do not go near, and never touch, handle or feed livestock :
- if you come across them unexpectedly, move away slowly; if
necessary re-trace your route.
- Keep dogs on short leads where there are livestock.
- Do not leave any waste food or litter.
- Stay on the path and leave all gates as you find them.
- Use disinfectant where provided.
- Start your walk or ride with clean equipment, footwear and
clothing.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Why is the revised veterinary risk assessment much less
restrictive?
The original veterinary risk assessment was prepared in mid-March
when the FMD epidemic was still escalating and recommended action
which was appropriate at that time. As a result of the action
which has been taken circumstances are now very different. The FMD
epidemic is in sharp decline. Although a few cases may continue to
occur, many parts of the country have remained disease free
throughout, some Infected Areas have been revoked and some
remaining Infected Areas or parts of Infected Areas have had no
confirmed cases for many weeks. The overall infectious load is
massively reduced. Virus excretion is now localised and
infrequent, and any virus which is on pastures will not survive as
long as it did in the winter months now that the weather is warmer
and drier.
2. Do we need buffer zones?
Buffer zones are not essential. However, bearing in mind the main
principle - that people and animals must not come into contact -
buffer zones can provide a degree of security and confidence in
limited circumstances. If thought appropriate, we would suggest a
minimum of 10 metres, but this is not a requirement. A lesser
width may still provide effective separation.
3. Can walkers spread FMD through dung on their boots?
In theory they can, but there is no evidence that FMD outbreaks
have actually been caused in this way. Dung from an infected
animal in the first few days of the disease will contain FMD
virus. If the public only use open rights of way which are outside
3 Km. Protection Zones, where the probability of an infected but
undiagnosed animal being present is low, and
- we assume that they normally try and avoid treading in fresh dung,
- that the infective loading in dung is low,
- that the virus will not survive for many days in the summer,
- and that an infectious dose from the dung would then have to be
deposited on another premises and eaten by another animal,
the risk of spread can be described as very low.
4. What is the risk of spread from bicycle tyres?
Very low. Bicycle tyres would have to have picked up infected
material, carried it for some distance, deposited it, and a
susceptible animal picked up an infectious dose. The likelihood of
this happening outside 3 Km. Protection Zones is very low for the
same reasons as risk of spread from dung on walking boots.
5. What is the potential risk of allowing public access onto open
land with grazing animals e.g. common land, upland moorland,
lowland heathland?
Generally, the potential risk is lower than for enclosed grazing
containing livestock because the density of stock on open land is
much lower and most stock are unlikely to approach walkers.
However, car parks on open moorland may attract stock which are
used to being fed there, increasing the risk of contact with
livestock and significantly increasing concentrations of dung. One
option is to encourage parking on the periphery only or fenceoff
car parks from the open land.
6. Do dogs, even on a lead, increase risk?
Yes, because dogs attract cattle, making separation of people and
animals more difficult. For this reason they must not be taken
across fields or on open land in Infected Areas where cattle are
present.
7. Does the presence of deer have implications for re-opening paths?
Where rights of way restrictions continue to apply, farmed deer
should be treated in the same way as other farmed livestock.
The presence of feral deer can be discounted.
8. Is water a significant vector?
No.
9. Should disinfectant be provided at the entry/exit of open
footpaths?
This is a matter for the land owner/manager but provision of
disinfectant (footbaths, mats) does no harm and may help to remind
walkers of the need to take precautions. Walkers should use
disinfectant where it is provided and anyway be advised to
wash/clean boots after each walk or trip to the countryside.
1 'Guidance for local authorities in England on public access to
the countryside on the rights of way network' Ministry of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Department of Environment,
Transport and the Regions Revised 25 April 2001
2 Infected Areas: Land designated by Declaratory Order extending
to a minimum of 10Km around an Infected Premises.
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