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We have responded angrily to Warwickshire County Council’s Head of Transport and Highways, Graeme Fitton, who has threatened to scrap the council’s Countryside Access Team.
Mr Fitton has told us that the council needs to save £60 million by 2014 and that it is taking ‘a closer look’ at the countryside access service ‘with a view to deciding whether it will continue to be provided and, if so, in what form’.
We have issued a sharp riposte.
‘Cutting the Countryside Access Team is a false economy. The work of these few, hardworking staff in maintaining the county’s network of public paths is not only of immense value to the public but it generates income for the county. Those visiting Warwickshire, for recreational walking, riding and cycling, spend money in the shops and on accommodation and meals. It is well known that these activities contribute massively to the rural economy.
‘Public paths and access land provide excellent value for money. For relatively little expenditure, a wonderful resource is maintained and improved, for everyone to enjoy. It serves far more people than indoor recreational facilities, and at a fraction of the cost.
‘If you cut the team, not only will none of these good things happen, but the paths will deteriorate and people will be deterred from visiting Warwickshire.
‘In any case, the county council has a statutory duty to assert and protect the rights of the public to use and enjoy the paths and to keep them clear of obstructions. If the county neglects this duty’, warns our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, ‘our members and others will service notices, requiring it to do the necessary work or face court action. The council could easily find itself in court, having to explain why it is ignoring its statutory duties on public paths.
‘We should like to work with you in determining where savings might be made which do not prejudice the path network and countryside access, but we cannot do this while you are threatening to abolish the Countryside Access Team. If you withdraw this threat, we shall be willing to talk,’ says the society.