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WELSH COUNCILS URGED TO REOPEN COUNTRYSIDE

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Assembly minister for the environment Sue Essex has urged local authorities in Wales to restore access to the count...
Assembly minister for the environment Sue Essex has urged local authorities in Wales to restore access to the countryside in line with latest expert veterinary advice.
On the day that saw the reopening of footpaths on Cader Idris, Ms Essex has issued a letter to Welsh councils asking for swift action to open up more countryside footpaths and rights of way to the public.
She said: 'The chief veterinary officer for Wales has advised that access to rights of way and other parts of the countryside can be restored except within the infected area. My letter to local authorities asks them to act swiftly to re-open footpaths and other rights of way - informing landowners and farmers of this action - and ensuring that the public are also made aware.
'As result all parts of Wales outside infection should see rights of way being reopened to the public. The only exceptions are within three kilometres of infected premises and in the Brecon/Talgarth area where recent cases of infection have occurred.
'This should be very good news indeed, especially for the hard-hit tourism sector and farmers themselves, many of whom rely on visitors for part of their income.'
Ms Essex said: 'Latest expert veterinary advice is that the amount of infection in circulation has considerably reduced now, with warmer weather and drier conditions meaning that the viral survival rates are much lower. As a result, the assessed risks of walkers and other visitors using public footpaths inadvertently spreading the disease are considered to be very small indeed.
'A very precautionary approach on public access to the countryside was necessary and responsible in the early days of the foot and mouth outbreak. Since then a risk assessment approach has informed action, with public rights of way being re-opened where considered safe to do so.
'On the basis of assembly guidance local authorities have been making steady progress in recent weeks in re-opening important rights of way - and I have welcomed this.
'The latest veterinary advice provides very good reassurance that much more progress is now possible. This would be good news for walkers and other visitors, but we ask them to continue to act responsibly.'
* see LGCnetfor the DETR's guidance to English local authorities.
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