September 22 2014 Latest news:
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Farmers in east Suffolk have been accused of failing to maintain footpaths through their land posing “absolutely horrendous” challenges for walkers seeking to enjoy the countryside.
Framlingham Town Council’s Rights of Way and Lighting committee has suggested appointing a “footpath warden” to monitor the situation after receiving public complaints about the extent of the problem.
Councillor Richard Parlone said he had encountered the issue first-hand when walking his dog, returning home “totally green” on one occasion after being forced to battle through the overgrown vegetation that was blocking his path.
“There are some landowners who are going out of their way to make it difficult for walkers,” he said. “It would be useful of we had someone out there keeping an eye on the farmers and reporting back.”
While many of the region’s footpaths were said to have been well maintained, other areas were of great concern for councillors.
Cally Leeper described the access along some routes as being “absolutely horrendous”. “There’s no way you can get through,” she added.
Brian Finnerty, regional communications manager with the National Farmers Union in East Anglia, said: “The vast majority of farmers take their responsibilities regarding rights of way very seriously and some members have set up permissive paths on their land so the public can enjoy the countryside.
“We advise members to avoid the risk of legal action by ensuring rights of way are delineated and free of crops.
“We also produce a business guide with advice on maintaining rights of way, which is available from our website.”
Town clerk Eileen Coe, speaking after the meeting, said the council carried out regular patrols of footpaths in the area and invited people to report any problem to her or the county council.
A Suffolk County Council spokesman said farmers are obliged to clear paths and had 14 days to reinstate a footpath after planting a new crop, after which time the authority had legal powers to enforce those duties.
Blocked pathways can be reported to the SCC Rights of Way & Access Team on 08456 606 6067.