Proposals to cut £20m-worth of red tape from the process of recording rights of way, have been unveiled by the government.
The plan, which is open to consultation until 6 August, is expected to cut the time taken to record a right of way by as much as several years. It should save £20m by cutting bureaucracy from the approvals process, according to DEFRA.
An spokeswoman for the department said that the time saving would also help to preserve many routes which would otherwise be lost in 2026.
“This cut-off date, by which to claim these historical rights of way, was set in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000,” the spokeswoman explained.
All unrecorded footpaths and bridleways created before 1949 cannot be recorded after 1 January 2026, she added.
The new plan which was formed in agreement with representatives from both farming and countryside groups, makes it easier for walkers, horse riders and cyclists to protect unrecorded rights of way.
“Landowners’ applications to move a right of way will continue to be approved only if they do not affect the public’s enjoyment of it, in which case it will be more straightforward for landowners to see changes through,” the spokeswoman said.
No changes are being made to the protections for rights of way, rather proposals have been made to make the process of recording or changing them more efficient.
DEFRA environment minister Richard Benyon said that the proposals were logical, making paths and trails that were used by the public easier to protect. And, redundant routes and unsubstantiated rights of way claims will be prevented from getting in the way of farming and business interests, Mr Benyon said.
“Footpaths, bridleways and trails are the life-blood for many rural communities, providing access to our world-renowned landscapes. Our changes will help protect access for the thousands of people who walk, ride and cycle in the countryside every week,” Mr Benyon said.
“Protecting and improving access to the countryside is the latest in a programme of government measures to grow the rural economy. These routes have huge benefits to the health and wellbeing of those that use them and can help stimulate the local economy, bringing in more visitors to enjoy rural areas.”
A £2m grant fund opened for applications from local communities on 14 May to improve access to rural areas in ways that will grow the regional economy.
The Paths for Communities initiative is part of the government’s £165m Rural Economy Growth Review announced in November 2011. Local volunteer groups are invited to bid for funding to create new rights of way or increase the accessibility of existing ones. This may include making rights of way accessible for horses and bikes, improving way marking, creating maps and making better links with local transport services and tourist destinations.