The impact of closing public rights of way to contain foot and mouth disease has been
increasingly felt across Britain. The mainstream media harks on about 'tourism businesses' - which the public take to mean B&Bs, tea shoppes and countryside hotels - but businesses heavily reliant on the outdoors have been hit just as hard.
Anglers can't get to rivers; walkers can't cross stiles; and cyclists aren't allowed on to trails.
This is the background to the second FMD survey carried out by the proactive Outdoors Industries Association. This business impact survey undertaken at the end of April has revealed that 87 percent of outdoor retailers and 84 percent of their suppliers witnessed a significant down urn in business for the month compared with the previous year. Over two
thirds of all retailers reporting a decline had seen turnover slashed by up
to 40 percent.
One in five businesses were down by over 40 percent.
This has impacted on staffing levels with a third of outdoor retailers reducing hours worked. Across the outdoor sector 16 percent of companies reported laying off part time staff while a similar proportion had also made redundancies among their full time staff.
"We estimate that this crisis has cost the outdoor sector over £30m in lost
sales to date," said the OIA's Andrew Maxted.
"We are very concerned that, despite the welcome news that the spread of the disease may now have been controlled, the situation will become considerably worse unless we see a
rapid re-opening of public rights of way."
"A notable feature of this latest survey is the growing discontent with the
reaction by local authorities. While at the end of March most
of members' ire was directed at central government, this latest survey shows
rising frustration at the continuing restrictions in places such as
Snowdonia and the Peak District where there are few, if any, reported cases
of the disease."
"Together with the Ramblers' Association, the BMC, and other outdoor groups,
we urge local authorities to heed the latest veterinary advice and use the
additional resources announced last month to make every effort to re-open
paths and access land where they have not already done so."
OIA chairman Richard Cotter, MD of AMG Outdoor Ltd, said:
"It is evident that many local authorities are reluctant to reopen paths even where the latest government guidelines and veterinary advice point to minimal risk. All [businesses affected by FMD] can and should be asking their local highway authorities why paths remain closed, if that is the case, in their areas."
"Our survey also shows that nearly two thirds of our members believe it will
be well into the summer before we see any semblance of normality returning
to the outdoor trade. [If the] recovery takes longer than hoped for [there 's a] real danger of companies folding once the media spotlight has moved on."