17 May 2001
Report illegal walkers, farmers told

By Alistair Driver

FARMERS have been told to tell police if members of the public are walking over unopened farmland in breach of foot-and-mouth rules.

With the daily average of new cases down under five a day, the National Farmers Union says the crisis is entering a critical phase.

But it stresses that farmers and the public must not drop their guard and allow the disease to spring up in new areas of the country.

Of major concern is the threat posed by the public who are being encouraged to return to the countryside.

There have been reports from infected areas of the public walking dangerously close to animals deemed at risk from having the disease

NFU West Midlands advises members to report registration numbers of vehicles belonging to people who breach regulations to the police.

And it has urged the police to prosecute people who walk over unopened farmland. The maximum fine is 5000.

“We are entering a really important in our efforts to control the disease,” said regional director Bob Forster.

“The feeling is that we are slowly getting the better of the crisis but it is vital that this progress is not endangered,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dorset County Council has responded to farmer concerns over the opening of footpaths by extending its footpaths hotline.

Farmers had been struggling to get through to the hotline, manned by 14 people, to voice concerns about plans to re-open footpaths.

To speed things up more staff have been brought in, an extra phone line has been installed, and the hotline will stay open until 21 May.

The council wants to open 2000 miles of rural footpaths by 26 May, some of which run through farmyards.

Council spokesman Bill Jaggs apologised for the delay, but suggested farmers were partly to blame by spending too long on the phone.

“The longer each call takes, the longer the next farmer has to wait,” he said.

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