Countryside campaigners have slammed Derbyshire County Council’s plans to cut its public rights of way budget, saying that in doing so, they are “shooting themselves in the foot.”
The Open Spaces Society, which campaigns for public rights of access to common land, says the cuts will mean the time it takes to deal with path problems will be significantly lengthened.
The body says that the “steady improvement” to footpaths in the county that has been seen over the past ten years must not be allowed to “slip away”.
Kate Ashbrook, general secretary, said: “The county council has a legal duty to keep paths clear of obstruction and crops, and to ensure they are signposted and waymarked.
“We have strongly opposed the council’s proposal to lengthen the time taken to deal with obstructions, encroachments, drainage, ploughing and cropping, and to mend structures such as stiles and gates which are in disrepair.”
Currently the council aims to deal with footpath problems within 14 weeks but now it is proposing to extend this to 26 weeks.
This might mean the public being unable to exercise their rights to use a footpath for an entire six months, by which time it may be too late for the council to take action as the situation may have changed.
Kate said: “Public paths are highways just like any road - we would not accept an illegal obstruction on the A50, the A38 or the A6 and the same laws apply to public footpaths and bridleways.
“Rights of way are an investment - if you neglect them you literally shoot yourself in the foot.”