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Monday, 16 June 2014

North York Moors footpaths and bridleways under threat

Only one item in this post. I have just emailed this to local MPs, press, ramblers etc. I don't suppose it will have any effect, but at least they can't say they didn't know.

For over 40 years the North York Moors National Park has managed the footpaths and bridleways on the Moors. There are over 2000 kilometres of these rights of way and a dedicated team of rangers, apprentices, field staff and hundreds of volunteers (probably thousands over the 40 years) has worked incredibly hard to maintain and improve them. Hedges have been cut back, steps built and cleaned, stiles, bridges and gates replaced and repaired, muddy areas drained and signing improved.

There has been a 2% improvement every year so that now there is a satisfaction rate by users of the paths of 96%.
Now all this is at risk. The Park only manages these paths on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council and it has decided that, because of the cuts imposed by the Government, it can no longer afford to do so. The Park has to put in its own money to maintain the paths at the level that visitors expect. It is very unlikely that the County Council, faced with its own budget restrictions, will be able to continue to maintain the paths at their current level. The agreement could end early next year.

Walking is the cheapest and most accessible way of exercising, an increasing need in our over weight society; it is also a help in cases of mild depression. Visitors to the Park, many of whom come to walk or cycle, bring hundreds of thousands of pounds into the area and support hundreds of local jobs.
The teams of volunteers who do much of the day to day maintenance give of their time willingly and with enthusiasm, I am one of them. But we are volunteers, we need the paid staff to lead us, provide the tools and other equipment and decide the priorities week after week. Most of us are retired, we are very happy to volunteer; we do not want the job of being responsible for what I have just outlined.

I am not criticising the National Park or even the County Council, but rather the Government whose short sighted cuts are going to cost more in the long term than they will save in the short term. As I have said they will affect people’s health, the local economy and put another nail in the coffin of what was laughingly called the Big Society. These cuts are not for any economic reason, they are driven by an ideological obsession with reducing anything done by public bodies.