Caravan-loving Margaret Beckett MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (the new department, DEFRA, already nicknamed ‘Deathrow’) has asked local authorities and national parks to justify plans to continue rights of way closures beyond July 20. The deadline for these submissions is Friday, July 6th.
The action will not stop authorities and parks closing rights of way within 3km of infected sites but the revocation of blanket bans will mean all public rights of way will be open unless they are signed as closed.
Mrs Beckett said: "It will mean that by the summer holidays the vast majority of the countryside will be well and truly open and seen to be open for visitors and for business."
Alun Michael, Minister of State for Rural Affairs told the CTC: "[Government vets] advise that the risk of walkers, cyclists and horseriders spreading foot and mouth disease is minimal."
According to the government, 55 per cent of rights of way are open. Some local authorities have no restrictions but others have opened as little as six per cent of routes despite having no FMD outbreaks.
CTC Director Kevin Mayne said: "This is much-needed action by the government. There are many countryside areas from which cyclist are barred for no reason.
"Cyclists keen to use closed rights of way which are not near FMD outbreaks should urge their local authority to re-open routes immediately. The government confirmed in May that the risk of spreading FMD on cycle tyres was ‘very low’ and at the same time we urged authorities and national parks to clearly identify whether land was accessible. The government has now adopted our suggestion."