ADEPT calls on local authorities to help provide new data on public rights of way

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), is asking local authorities across England to complete a new online survey to understand the ongoing pressures on public rights of way in their areas.

The short survey asks for information on impacts of levels of usage compared with 2019, budget and resource challenges, map work and seeks officers’ views on current and future pressures on service delivery. ADEPT is again working in partnership with the Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management (IPROW).

COVID-19, national lockdowns and the restrictions of the tiers system have all seen ever greater numbers use public rights of way for exercise and active travel. Although this increase is welcome in terms of mental health and wellbeing, it has meant an increased workload for teams as they manage already tightened budgets, said ADEPT.

Once again, the information collected will be used to inform both organisations’ work with Defra, Natural England and the Local Government Association and will be used to highlight budget and resource pressures faced by the estimated 140,000 miles of public rights of way networks across the country.

Shona Butter, Vice-Chair of ADEPT’s Rights of Way Managers Group said: “Public rights of way have become a vital part of ensuring that the public’s health, wellbeing and access to outdoor spaces can be maintained through the ongoing pandemic. They are a lifeline to local communities, particularly in periods of national lockdown, and there has been a significant increase in the number of users.

“Unfortunately, greater usage also means increased pressures on already strained budgets in terms of maintenance and safety. We want to understand in more detail the challenges faced by officers responsible for maintaining rights of way to inform our work with government.”

Chris Miller, IPROW President said: Since the outset of the first lockdown in 2020 the usage level on rights of way and on access land has increased significantly and in some circumstances the network of paths is coming under considerable pressure as authorities struggle to meet demand and expectations. With changes in rights of way legislation and management looming it is important that the increased enjoyment of the network and the need to ensure it remains appropriately maintained and managed is recognised.”

Local authorities are receiving emails providing details of how to access the survey and the information to be captured. Once analysed, the results will be available on the ADEPT website.

The latest government advice on public rights of way is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/operational-update-covid-19.

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