Chris Ames 10 June 2021

Councils fighting to keep on top of rights of way maintenance

Councils fighting to keep on top of rights of way maintenance  image

Local authorities are fighting to keep on top of the maintenance needs of public rights of way alongside a backdrop of increased public expectations, council place directors have said.

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) has published the results of its third survey on the impact of COVID-19 on rights of way.

The survey ran from mid-January until the end of February 2021 and saw 85% of respondents reporting an increase in numbers using the public rights of way network, although some reported that numbers were lower than during the first lockdown in spring 2020.

Respondents also reported a backlog of maintenance work on infrastructure such as bridges and gates which has built up due to COVID-19 restrictions. Many reported that increased use and wet weather had created surface damage to footpaths.

This increase in use was cited by 62% of respondents as their top concern, with 52% naming budget and 45% citing lack of staff and resource. Increased budget was also cited as one of the top measures needed to support services, with 62% referring to long-term funding certainty.

Respondents also cited modification orders and deregulation, planning applications, climate and weather.

Rights of way officers from over 68 local authorities and nine national parks authorities across England and Wales responded to the survey, which was designed with the Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management (IPROW).

Chris Miller, president of IPROW, said: ‘The significant increases in use combined with the winter weather has left authorities fighting to keep on top of the required maintenance for paths alongside a backdrop of increased public expectations. Many authorities will need significant financial investment to ensure that the wide variety of benefits from outdoor access can be realised.’

ADEPT said authorities are also experiencing increased claims for unrecorded routes due to the proposed 2026 historic cut off set out in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

The survey revealed that the average existing backlog of claims to amend the definitive map (the legal record of public rights of way) was 62 per authority. The average time to clear these backlogs with existing resource levels is estimated at 16 years.

Shona Butter, chair of ADEPT’s Public Rights of Way Group said: ‘Our Public Rights of Way Officers are responsible for a wide range of countryside services and we do not have enough staff even to manage existing works. Services have been hit by year on year budget cuts, so ADEPT would like to see more support for capital schemes and greater long term funding certainty.’

The results of the survey can be found on the ADEPT website:

LEPs: A year like no other image

LEPs: A year like no other

Alun Rogers, chair of Stoke and Staffordshire LEP, on the 2020-2021 annual review and his hopes for the future of the LEP.
Supporting young victims of domestic abuse image

Supporting young victims of domestic abuse

Steph Waddell says it’s time for a serious long-term commitment from government to improve understanding of what works in supporting children affected by domestic abuse.
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Senior infrastructure engineer

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£45.834 - £56.141
You’ll lead the building, testing and monitoring new and existing services both on-prem and in the cloud. Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Infrastructure engineer

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£37.772 - £46.999
This is a great role in a vibrant and growing team; we’re looking for people who have some experience in infrastructure engineering... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Solutions Architect

Essex County Council
Solutions ArchitectPermanent, Full TimeCompetitive SalaryLocation
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Head of Growth, Investment and Tourism – Dover District Council

Dover District Council
Competitive Salary
In this role, you will find significant and nationally important physical, economic and cultural assets with the capacity to... Dover, Kent
Recuriter: Dover District Council

Monitoring Officer / Assistant Director Legal, Registration & Electoral Services

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
£90,205 per annum         
This is an exciting time to join Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and an opportunity to make a real difference. Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recuriter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue