A national park authority says it is too hard up to maintain its footpaths.

Brecon Beacons chiefs need £3m to restore paths in the area. Rights of way extend for almost 2,000km (1,245miles) but there is no money available to do the work.

Park access officer Richard Ball blamed harsh weather conditions and high use for the damage to many paths. He said: “At least £3m-worth of work on paths has been identified, but there isn’t enough money in the budget to cover this.

“We are looking at ways of raising money.”

In June last year, the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority was the first in Wales to adopt a Rights of Way Improvement Plan, as required by legislation. The plan points out that the park’s paths are in a better condition than most in Wales, but that extra funding would be necessary to carry out all the recommendations.

The plan puts rights of way at the heart of increasing and sustaining tourism to the area which, along with forestry and farming, is the main economic activity.

This is acknowledged in the plan, which says: “Authorities that fail to make the necessary investment risk losing market share to competing areas that are able to offer more accessible countryside.”

A Countryside Council for Wales report compiled in 2003 pointed out that authorities were only spending a fifth of what was necessary to maintain and improve footpaths. The Rights of Way Improvement Plans were meant to remedy this.

In a survey conducted by the Brecon Beacons authority, only 36 per cent of footpaths in the park were classed as easy to use. 83 bridges were in need of repair and 40 per cent of paths were not being used because they were either obstructed or another line had evolved.

The shortage of funding arises partly because, although the authority has a legal duty to draw up an improvement plan for its rights of way, there is no obligation to implement this plan, so cash is not automatically made available.

One major project which is going ahead is the airlifting of 200 tons of stone on to the Black Mountain to repair the Bwlch Giedd path. This work alone, which should be completed in three weeks, is costing £50,000. The route was chosen as a priority because of landslips in recent years.