Yesterday afternoon the CTC gave qualified support to the government’s new framework for re-opening rights of way in the countryside during what is hoped will be the final stages of the FMD epidemic.
The framework document announced last week gives a clear set of guidance to local authorities on which routes can be re-opened and has been designed to speed up their re-opening. It is supported by a £3.8 million fund which local authorities and national parks can access to support re-opening.
CTC Director Kevin Mayne said: "CTC was invited to comment on the framework along with other countryside user groups. I am delighted that the DETR was able to take on our main point – that the original document was biased towards walkers – and has produced a more balanced framework.
"This is the first time in the foot and mouth crisis that countryside users have been given a voice and we expect this to be an ongoing process. We do, however, lack confidence in local authorities’ enthusiasm for re-opening.
"We are also concerned that the re-opening of bridleways was not given sufficient emphasis. Bridleways form only 11 per cent of the countryside access network but are the only routes to rights of way for cyclists and horseriders. We call on local authorities to recognise this when considering which paths to prioritise."
Local authorities have been asked to assess ‘the local case for lifting current restrictions…in consultation with local stakeholders including those representing user and land manager interests.’
CTC has been identified by DETR as the main contact body for cycling during this process and will pass information on to local CTC Right to Ride representatives and other contacts.
Mayne said: "The issue we face now is having enough Right to Ride representatives to put co-ordinated pressure on local authorities. We urgently call on cyclists with an interest in re-opening rights of way and the long-term future of the offroad network to register with us.
"There has been a long standing shortage in the mountain biking community of people willing to come forward, now we have the opportunity to get to the heart of the process.
"The government funding also allows local authorities and national parks to pay towards the cost of re-opening work. We think it would be more appropriate for some of that money to come straight to cycling to support our Right to Ride volunteers."