Farmers fears as footpaths re-open

4 May 2001

Farmers’ fears as footpaths re-open

By Isabel Davies

NATIONAL parks and local authorities are under fire for re-opening footpaths for the May Bank Holiday weekend without consulting farmers.

Farmers across the country have expressed concern that restrictions on walking in the countryside are being eased too soon.

They fear a flood of walkers into rural areas could compromise efforts to avoid foot-and-mouth – especially in regions free of the disease.

North Yorkshire farmer Thomas Lord accused Yorkshire Dales National Park officials of failing to consult over the re-opening of walled lanes within the park.

The decision was made without talking to farmers, he claimed.

It was a contradiction for farmers to keep up precautions when footpaths were being opened with no disinfectant facilities put in place, said Mr Lord.

“Farmers have been told not to let our guard down now,” he said. “But lo and behold they are opening footpaths.”

Settle-based vet Neil Roberts told FARMERS WEEKLY that the nearest case of foot-and-mouth was 15 miles away, and farmers were keen to keep it that way.

“The less people walking through the countryside, the less of a risk there is of foot-and-mouth spreading,” he said.

Mr Roberts said he would have advised park officials to encourage the use of disinfectants to remind people that foot-and-mouth could be spread.

Medywn Owen, who farms in north Wales, described a decision by Conway County Council to re-open Conway Common as unfair and unjust.

“Why open the common to tourists when we as farmers, who depend on it for a living, arent allowed to turn our stock on it?”

Despite producers fears about relaxing restrictions, the prospect is for more footpaths to be opened during the coming weeks.

New guidelines released by the government have already advised local authorities which paths can safely be opened and which should remain closed.

A spokesman for the Peak District National Park, which is so far free from foot-and-mouth, said the guidelines would enable it to open more paths.

“We are working with the highway authorities with the aim of re-opening more and more rights of way,” he said.


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