Wednesday, 31 October 2012

National Trails

There are 15 National Trails (13 in England and 2 in Wales). They include such celebrated routes as the South West Coast Path, the Cotswold Way, the Ridgeway, the Pennine Way and Offa's Dyke Path. Together they account for 2,500 miles of long distance path. There are some notable exclusions too, e.g. Alfred Wainwright's Coast to Coast path.

They are currently mainly funded by central government and administered by Natural England, which has a National Trail Officer responsible for each one.

Driven by funding pressures and by central government's desire to "see more devolved and locally responsive solutions to public service provision", Natural England has reviewed the National Trails and gone out to consultation with proposals to devolve management of the trails to a number of local Trail Partnerships. The consultation closed in July, but the document is still available here.

The Ramblers and others feel that there is great danger in this devolution. There are three obvious risks:
  • There would be no national champion to advocate and plan for the future of the National Trails - how would new ones be introduced?
  • The responsibility for managing and maintaining National Trails would fall on already-stretched Local Authorities and stakeholders, without these bodies having any additional support.
  • There is no safety net in the case of a Local Trail Partnership failure.
The Ramblers' have produced their vision for the National Trails.   It centres on the creation of a new national charity, the National Trails Trust, which would oversee the whole network of trails and so address the risks described above. It would also seek to expand and develop the network of trails.

It seems eminently sensible, but to bolster the rational argument, the Ramblers is asking people to sign a petition urging the government to rethink the proposals.

Sign the petition here.

And when you've signed, get your friends to do so as well by clicking here.

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