Riders Accuse Government of Sacrificing Rights of Way to Pacify Landowners for Right to Roam
Last year, the Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the government's intention to pass legislation for Right to Roam. He briefly mentioned improvements for the millions of other recreational access users who are forced share a scant 10% of the entire rights of way network in the UK.
In 1998, the Countryside Agency's issued Rights of Way in the 21st Century, detailing recommendations needed to succeed where past legislation failed.The Countryside Agency specifically drew attention to the lack of facilities for riders & cyclists and the need to rectify the long-standing problems faced by the UK's most vulnerable road users.
The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions have omitted key recommendations which are crucial to improving access for not only riders and carriage drivers, but all access users. There are to be:
| ||No funding specifically earmarked for rights of way. |
| ||No powers for the Secretary of State to direct councils to carry out statutory duties. |
| || No appointment of a rights of way ombudsman to deals with the overwhelming amount of complaints against local authorities. |
| || No requirement for local authorities to deal with claims to record row within a specified time limit. (N. Yorks CC currently have 40-year backlog (400 claims); Staffordshire CC have 200 unprocessed claims). |
| ||No working group of organisations with an interest in vehicular use of rights of way to identify & agree specific proposals to improve the management & recording user rights of byways. (Carriage drivers and other vehicular users have only 2% of the network available to them) |
What the DETR propose barely resembles the well-thought-out recommendations made by the Countryside Agency. Rather than defend and extend the public rights, the DETR proposals benefit landowners by:
| ||Making it easier for landowners to extinguish & divert public rights of ways |
| ||Setting a deadline for adding rights of way to the definitive map - meanwhile landowners will have a statutory right to apply to divert & extinguish paths indefinitely resulting in a reduction of rights of way |
| ||Giving powers to authorities to close or divert linear rights of way in the name of environment, wildlife and crime - while ignoring the potential negative impact surrounding the right to roam. |
Every day in the United Kingdom, almost 100 riders and cyclists are hit by cars. These proposals fail to address the current situation for bridleway users while increasing provision for walkers who already enjoy access to 100% of the UK's Rights of Way.