Charity blasts budget cuts to upkeep of footpaths and rights of way

Numbers of overgrown paths and rights of way have become so huge thanks to budget cuts that the economy and health is being put at risk, says the Ramblers.

The walkers’ charity voiced its increasing concern about the cuts in a recent report, insisting that impassable paths damaged tourism, the economy and the nation’s physical and mental health.

It used a freedom of information request to look as the scale of cuts and found over 70 per cent of all councils had cut their rights-of-way budgets in three years; 40 per cent had slashed budgets by more than 20 per cent and 11 percent by more than half.

"This proves rights of way, and the teams that look after them, are being disproportionately affected by council funding cuts," said the Ramblers report on the reduction of funding for rights of way in England.

"As paths become more impenetrable and stiles more overgrown people will stop walking them," it continued. "The eventual long-term clearance and maintenance bill will be far greater than the cost if these problems were tackled now."

The South West Coast path raised £307m for the regional economy annually, it said. Meanwhile the number of overgrown and blocked paths in Lancashire had more than doubled in two years with the loss of over a third of its budget and seven upkeep staff.

Norfolk County Council, which cut of nearly 70 per cent to its rights-of-way budget and stopped all regular cutting duties, was creating "serious problems for Norfolk’s walking infrastructure".

Open Spaces Society general secretary Kate Ashbrook said: "It is outrageous that authorities should be slashing their public-path budgets at a time when outdoor recreation has never been more important.

"Many people venturing into the countryside lack the confidence to fight their way through a barrage of nettles, brambles and other vegetation."

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