Kate Ashbrook: today Wales; tomorrow England?

Kate Ashbrook: today Wales; tomorrow England?

A leading campaigner said she fears for the future of Welsh footpaths if Government proposals go ahead.

Kate Ashbrook said the approach could spread to England if cash-strapped authorities adopt the same view.

Ms Ashbrook, a veteran access advocate and general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said the Welsh Government’s is dismissing the historic and cultural value of public paths – a trend that could cross the border to England.

The OSS, Britain’s oldest national conservation body, has responded to a green paper published by the Cardiff administration.

Ms Ashbrook points out in her editorial in the society’s latest magazine that Wales’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, much of it in the outdoors sector.

She said: “Despite positive statements in the paper about the importance of recreation, the Government sees only burdens and costs in the public-path network, and in effect dismisses this great heritage.

“It proposes that local authorities review ‘the opportunities available within their area for access and outdoor recreation and confirm a prioritised network of recreational routes and access areas’.

“We know what this means. National trails and a few promoted routes get top treatment while many others go to the bottom of the heap.

“The paper offers the carrot of Scottish-style access – the freedom to walk everywhere subject to a code – but this would be at the expense of public paths: definitive maps would no longer be a definitive record and highways would be put in a hierarchy and moved at whim.

“If this happens in Wales now, it will happen in England tomorrow where local authorities suffering from government cuts are desperate to save money.

“Yet the £16m Wales Coast Path generated £32m in visitor spending in its first year. What other investment gives a 100 per cent return?”

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