Monday, 14 June 2021

Call to fine owners who block paths

A CONSERVATION group is calling for better protection and promotion of public footpaths following Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

The Open Spaces Society, which is based in Henley, also wants penalties for those who illegally block public paths and financial incentives for farmers to maintain rights of way.

Secretary Kate Ashbrook said: “In the new regime there must be payments for access which are ring-fenced and held in a national access pot.

“These payments should be available to landowners who offer new, useful, freedoms, whether on paths or access land. Ideally this will be permanent, consisting of definitive rights of way or land dedicated to access.

“Payments should also be made to improve existing access: farmers could pledge to mow field-edge routes, leave cross-field paths uncultivated, or provide new access points on open country.

“Any farmer receiving grant whose public paths are not kept in good order, or whose access land is inaccessible, will have payments deducted. The money will be returned to the national access pot.

“Power to dock grants should be transferred to highway authorities who must swiftly visit sites where a problem has been reported. This will give value for money because it will encourage farmers to keep paths clear, which will in turn reduce the local authorities’ burden.”

In a direct message to Theresa May, Ms Ashbrook added: “If ‘Brexit means Brexit’, Prime Minister, access means access.”

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