6 March 2001
Path restrictions ‘farcical’

By Donald MacPhail

EMERGENCY restrictions to prevent the public from spreading foot-and-mouth disease in the countryside have been branded “farcical” an angry farmer.

David Pritchard has been told he cannot stop dog-walkers exercising their animals on a footpath yards from his cattle because it is part of a highway.

Local authorities have been given statutory powers to ban people from any land where there may be animals susceptible to the highly-contagious disease.

Land footpaths and rights of way can also be declared out of bounds, and a 5000 fine imposed on those who flout this.

Highways are exempt, as – it appears – are adjacent footways, as from Mr Pritchard of Dunsville, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was shocked to learn.

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council told the farmer it could not stop walkers as the restrictions did not cover the footpath alongside the A18 road.

“Its a complete farce,” said Mr Pritchard.

“Theres supposed to be restrictions yet theyll do nothing to stop people walking their dogs yards from my cattle. Im very upset over this.”

A spokeswoman for Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council said the new statutory powers did not permit authorities to close the roadside paths.

But she said council officials had given Mr Pritchard signs to warn the public to stay away from his farm.

The spokeswoman added “We have used our discretion and closed all footpaths and rights of way in rural areas until further notice.”

National Farmers Union legal policy advisor Robert Madge said land alongside highways was “a moot point” under the restrictions.

He said the Government may review the legislation, which was drawn up in haste, within the next few days.

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage