In August last year, the Government announced three independent inquiries into the lessons to be learned from the foot and mouth disease outbreak of 2001. These were published last week by Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The key document for the outdoor and bike trades was ‘The iinquiry into the lessons to be learned from the foot and mouth disease outbreak of 2001 and the way the Government should handle any future major animal disease’.
The published report leaves open the possibility that large parts of the countryside could again be closed to combat any future outbreak of the disease in Britain, claims Andy Airey, chairman of the Outdoor Industries Association.
"Clearly we welcome environment secretary Margaret Beckett’s statement that the government would not intend to allow the widespread closure of footpaths in any future epidemic, but we are disappointed that among the 80 recommendations made in the Anderson report on lessons learned not one specifically addresses this issue," said Airey.
"The statement, and indeed the report, acknowledges that the decision to allow local authorities to close public rights of way without a clear mechanism to ensure their re-opening was a mistake. While this judgement is made in hindsight, and like the Ramblers’ Association and other outdoor bodies we encouraged walkers, climbers and other users to respect restrictions, we remain concerned that the official reports do not go far
enough to ensure that the substantial economic and social distress resulting
from that mistake will not be repeated.
"We are asking the government to clarify the circumstances in which they may permit [rights of way] to be closed together with details of how any closures and subsequent re-openings will be agreed and communicated."