Walkers face problems using paths as funding cuts bite, the Ramblers said

Walkers face problems using paths as funding cuts bite, the Ramblers said

Cuts in funding for England’s local authorities are stopping people going for a walk, the Ramblers warned.

The charity said there are now 100,000 problem paths in the country which hinder members of the public trying to take a healthy walk.

More than 30 per cent of councils have cut their budgets for footpaths this year, which follows three years of severe cuts during the coalition Government’s austerity measures.

The Ramblers said the cuts are damaging people’s ability to get outdoors and will increasingly affect tourism, the economy and the nation’s physical and mental health.

The charity today published its findings from Freedom of Information requests to every local authority in England. Its Paths in Crisis report said 100,000 problems reported to the highway authorities have not been fixed.

Walkers face impenetrable overgrowth, dangerous barbed wire, flooded paths and missing signposts, stiles and bridges, the organisation said.

The charity said it has teams of volunteers working with 44 different councils in England who go out in their spare time to clear overgrowth paths, put up signposts and fix broken stiles and bridges.

“However, with such drastic cuts to funding there is less money for path clearance and with fewer staff to co-ordinate volunteers and liaise with landowners, it will become harder for volunteering to take place,” it said.

The Ramblers called on councils to work with the charity to repair path problems.

It also said authorities should stop the severe and disproportionate cuts to rights of way budgets and address the backlog of work for recording paths as rights of way to protect them for the next generation of walkers.

Chief executive Benedict Southworth said: “Blocked and overgrown paths put people off from getting outside at a time when we need to be making it easier, not harder, for everyone to get more active.

“We know walking is one of the nation’s favourite pastimes, with visitors to England’s great outdoors spending £21bn last year.

“Keeping paths clear is a small cost compared to the huge benefits they can bring to tourism, the economy and the nation’s health and happiness and it is vital that councils properly invest in them.

“We’re calling on councils to work with us to help get these paths back on track.

“We have volunteers across the country that regularly go out to clear paths, fix stiles and build bridges but without council staff to work with our volunteers and liaise with landowners, it is becoming harder for our volunteers to help.”

The Paths in Crisis report lists ‘councils of concern’ which have made the largest funding cuts or have the largest number of path problems.

These include authorities in prime tourist areas and on the fringes of national parks.

Cornwall, Somerset Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Staffordshire County Councils are on the list, along with Barnsley, Oldham, Calderdale and Kirklees, and city councils in Birmingham and Plymouth.

The Ramblers said physical inactivity is one of the nation’s biggest killers and if everyone walked more, it could prevent 37,000 deaths every year.

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