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The 13 National Trails are among England’s finest assets. Government must continue to invest in them and promote them because they provide health and happiness to millions of people and are well worth every penny. So says the society which has responded to Natural England’s consultation on the future management of the National Trails.
We fear that there will be less investment in the trails from Natural England and that the management, protection and promotion will be passed to new, local Trail Partnerships about which there is, as yet, little information.
Says our general secretary Kate Ashbrook: ‘The National Trails are immensely important as a national family, providing challenge and inspiration, fresh air and freedom for the nation’s walkers (and in some cases riders and cyclists), as well as to visitors from overseas. They are of international renown and envy. But their standards could all too easily slip if Natural England does not maintain the investment in them.
‘The highway authorities make a vital contribution to the trails’ maintenance, but they are slashing their rights-of-way budgets and the risk is that either they will put money in to the National Trails at the expense of the rest of the network, or that the trails will suffer because the authorities cannot help to fund them.
‘Government should recognise the value of the trails to our economy and invest in them, not devolve them to local structures and volunteers. The trails must remain as a national family of top-quality routes, alongside the nation’s vital network of public paths.’