The cuts will lead to more blocked footpaths, Ramblers said

The cuts will lead to more blocked footpaths, Ramblers said

Cuts by a local authority are jeopardising footpath networks vital to the fitness of a county’s walkers according to campaigners.

Ramblers in East Sussex say nearly a third of the county council rights of way budget has been cut, and many lesser known routes are at risk.

A spokesperson for the Ramblers in Sussex said: “Walking is by far the most popular active recreation and East Sussex has more than 2,000 miles of footpaths to walk on.

“Even before current cuts it only had about half the number of council rights of way officers looking after the paths that similar councils have.

“Now East Sussex County Council has decided to take away £285,000 from the 2012-3 rights-of-way budget – nearly one third of the total.”

The spokesperson said the council’s decision sets it against the Government’s aim of improving Britons’ health in the year of the London Olympics.

“These were meant to be the Legacy Olympics, when the nation would be inspired to be fitter and more active, using a legacy of facilities from the games,” the spokesperson said, but the East Sussex area footpath secretary Malcolm McDonnell said: “When a bridge becomes unsafe there will be no money to repair it.

“When a path becomes overgrown it will not be cleared. Action will not be taken when a landowner lets a stile become dangerous, or illegally blocks a footpath. Over time, the network will become more and more difficult to use and people will be discouraged from walking.”

Sussex Ramblers said the most famous routes, such as the South Downs Way, will probably continue to be protected. The group said the paths most at risk are local paths, not used by people travelling long distances but beloved of local dog walkers, exercisers and lovers of the countryside.

Member Chris Smith said: “Some of the blame for this must rest with central government, but a choice has been made by East Sussex County Council.

“According to the Campaign for Better Transport the council has allocated roughly £23m to the four-mile-long Bexhill and Hastings link road.

“Just a fraction of this could keep paths open, ensure an Olympic legacy and boost the economy by encouraging rural tourism.”

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