End the scandal of secret paths2 min read

Fifty years on from the Countryside Act 1968, which required local authorities to signpost a public path where it leaves a road, many paths still lack signposts.

We are calling for an end to this scandal. Join Open Spaces Society and add your voice to our ongoing battle.

Thurleigh bridleway 56, Bedford, lacks a signpost where it leaves Whitwick Green Road

The society and the Ramblers were responsible for winning the signposting provision which was enshrined in section 27 of the Countryside Act 1968.  This states that a highway authority (county or unitary council) must erect and maintain a signpost where a public path leaves a metalled road.  The signpost must show the status of the path, eg whether it is a footpath, bridleway, restricted byway or byway open to all traffic.  If the authority considers it convenient and appropriate, the destination of the path and distance to that destination may also be given.

Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘Signposts are important because they give people the confidence to use and enjoy public paths, which are public rights of way and highways in law.

Sandbach footpath 37 has now sign off School Lane in Cheshire East

‘Although paths are marked on Ordnance Survey maps, many people are deterred from using them if there is no indication that a route is a public path.  In any case, paths can be closed or moved making the maps out of date.

‘Without a signpost, a path can be a well-kept secret.

Sporle-with-Palgrave bridleway 8 in Norfolk needs a signpost

‘That is why we pressed for the inclusion of the signposting duty in the Countryside Act and why we are dismayed to find that there are still many missing signposts.’

The Ramblers’ Big Pathwatch survey in 2015 revealed that lack of signposts and waymarks was one of the biggest problems, with about 9,000 signposts reported as missing where paths leave metalled roads in England and Wales—despite the legal duty on local authorities to provide and maintain them.

Kate continues: ‘We are now gathering examples of where highway authorities are failing in their duty.  These already include cases in Bedford Borough, Buckinghamshire, Cheshire East, Cornwall, Derbyshire, Dorset, East Sussex, Milton Keynes and Norfolk—and we shall continue to add to these throughout 2018.

Wareham footpath 7, Dorset, through the golf club car park has no signpost

‘In this fiftieth anniversary year of the Countryside Act 1968 which gave highway authorities a duty to signpost paths, we want to see them make a real effort to ensure all their paths are marked.’

Piddington and Wheeler End footpath 16 (marked in black) has no signpost off Piddington Lane

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