10 March 1999
Councils to settle rights of way disputes

THE government is to give local authorities greater powers to resolve disputes over rights of way as part of its new access legislation.

One favoured option would be to place a stronger requirement on local authorities to open blocked rights of way.

The idea is one of the proposals put forward by the Countryside Commission in a report which is expected to be accepted by ministers.

The report is thought to criticise local authorities for failing to meet a target set in 1987 of defining, maintaining and publicising all existing rights of way by 2000.

The commission estimates that it would take £150 million over three years to complete the task.

It proposes a new access ombudsman with the power to “name and shame” local authorities which fall behind in opening up blocked paths.