Walkers shun Powys because of bad footpaths
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A report presented to Powys County Council’s Planning, Taxi Licensing and Rights of Way committee has revealed that the poor state of public footpaths in Powys is negatively affecting the "visitor economy".
The report, which covers the period from April 2021 to the end of December 2022, was given by the council-appointed Local Access Forum (LAF).
Graham Taylor, the LAF Chairman, told the committee that there were now over 10,000 reports of problems reported by the public, compared to 8,000 reports from 18 months ago. He also noted that rights of way reported in 2019 were still not addressed after four years, and there was a need for "effective enforcement action on flagrant breaches of legislation."
Taylor added that overgrown or blocked footpaths were getting in the way of access and were sending the wrong message to the small minority of landowners who blocked footpaths without consequences.
He said it was becoming increasingly difficult to use the footpaths, and many visitors were disappointed to find that only about a third of the rights of way were usable and accessible. As a result, some walking groups from Shropshire, Herefordshire, and other places have stopped coming to Powys because they could not guarantee the footpaths were open and ready to use.
Taylor suggested that improving the state of rights of way could positively impact the visitor economy, as seen in Snowdonia during the Covid-19 lockdown, where overcrowding issues were experienced as people flocked to the mountains for exercise.
To improve the situation, Taylor suggested that potential community benefit money from windfarm developments could help build up the council coffers to improve rights of way. He also suggested that applying for grant funding from the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund could be used to improve signage.
Councillor Gareth E Jones, who is also a member of the forum, said the countryside services team does a fantastic job with limited resources. He believes the issues are significantly under-reported and could be as many as 20,000 to 30,000. He argued that improved footpaths and bridleways would improve the health and wellbeing of people and could reduce the budget in social services by a significant amount.
Councillor Angela Davies said that there are clearly problems and more needs to be done to support the rural economy.
This article first appeared on the Powys County Times here and has been re-written by AI for publication.
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