the rights of way network in England, rural affairs minister Alun
Michael announced today to mark the publication of draft guidance on
preparing rights of way improvement plans.
The department for environment, food and rural affairs has issued a
consultation paper to all local authorities in England on how to
prepare, publish and review plans for improving the rights of way
Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, there is a new duty on
local authorities to look strategically at their rights of way
network and to assess how it meets the needs of local people -
particularly equestrians and cyclists. Local authorities will need to
set out in these plans what else needs to be done to meet future
needs. Improvement plans will need to be in place in the next five
years. Particular regard should be given to blind or partially
sighted persons, as well as those with mobility problems.
Alun Michael, rural affairs minister said:
'We are seeking views on this key provision on rights of way. The
guidance clarifies the new duty on local authorities to make an
honest assessment of their rights of way network, think about short
comings and strategically plan for its improvement - making use of
the powers they already have.
'This new approach will be of great use to those areas that are
tourist destinations which felt the impact of the closure of rights
of way during the foot and mouth outbreak most severely. But it is
not just about tourism, it is about local use too. These changes
don't have to be major. Sometimes the creation of a short connecting
path is all that is necessary to provide a useful local cut through,
to provide access to a local beauty spot, or to link up an almost
'Nor is it just about walkers. The rights of way network provides
access to the countryside for other types of users too and these
plans should look at how well they are catered for. The aim of this
proposal was to increase provision for horse riders and carriage
drivers and cyclists, and those who cannot easily use all the current
paths - for instance those with mobility problems and the blind or
'It is important to get this guidance right, and I welcome views
particularly from all local authorities, all users of rights of way
and groups that represent disabled users, but also from anybody else
with an interest in this important aspect of our countryside.'
1. The consultation paper 'Draft guidance to local highway
authorities on the preparation of rights of way improvement plans'
will be published on 20 December.
2. It sets out the government's proposed guidance to local
authorities on preparing, publishing, assessing and reviewing rights
of way improvement plans under section 61(4) of the Countryside and
Rights of Way Act 2000. Section 60 of the Countryside and Rights of
Way Act 2000 requires local highway authorities (other than an inner
London authority) to prepare and publish rights of way improvement
plans, and to assess and review plans not more than 10 years after
publication and at intervals of not less than 10 years thereafter.
The closing date for the consultation is 28 March.
3. Copies will be available from: DEFRA Publications, Admail
6000, London SW1A 2XX. Tel: 08459 556000. It will also be
available on the DEFRA website.
4. The original proposal is set out in the 1999 consultation paper
'Improving Rights of Way in England and Wales'.