Monday 16th August 2021
[OFFICIAL] Note of meeting of Rights of Way Consultative Group 10am May 26th -update August 2021
Dear Rights of Way Consultative Group attendee
How the summer is flying! We’re roughly mid way between our last meeting in May and the next we have scheduled for 6th October, so it’s about time for me to drop you a line with an update on all things in the world of Public Rights of Way.
Firstly, we’ve had a couple of changes in the team since our last meeting. We now have a new Network Management and Enforcement Officer covering the northern part of the borough. Enya Dunn has joined us all the way from Cornwall and we’re very pleased to welcome her both to the team and to Cheshire East. Nicola Swinnerton is now covering the south of the borough, and Barry Poole the central section. I’ve attached a map showing who covers which parishes which will hopefully be helpful in identifying who the respective Officer is. Please however continue to use the Online problem report form to report in issues as this helps gather as much information and photos about the issue and its exact location, and helps us to record, assess and allocate it most effectively.
Secondly, things continue to be busy in terms of the numbers of people using the network – which is great for health and wellbeing and helps to keep the vegetation down on popular routes, but does put extra pressure on the structures and surfaces of the paths. It also generates extra issues for landowners when the minority of path users are not as respectful of the countryside as they should be. The result is a high number of issue reports and legal enquiries so we’re having to focus on health and safety matters as the priority and therefore in some cases it’s taking a little longer than normal for us to resolve non-urgent issues. However, be assured that issues reported are logged. Work is continuing on the legal side of things through the processing of diversions and temporary closures with the lockdown situation also generating an increased number of applications for landowner declarations, diversions and Definitive Map Modification Orders, so the impact is felt across the work of the team.
The impact of Covid continues for us in a number of other ways as well: the team are on the whole still working from home until further notice which has its benefits but also makes some tasks and communication – for example learning new IT packages – more of a challenge. Covid, plus Brexit, plus the escalation of construction preparation for HS2 are also resulting in difficulties in getting materials such as timber and steel for our bridges and gates. We’re also seeing price increases up to 100% in some instances which will obviously have a knock on effect in how far our budgets will stretch.
On the positive side, we’re continuing to receive many compliments on the good condition of the network and our prompt and helpful responses to enquiries for both landowners and users, which is down to the very hard work of all of our team. We’re grateful, as ever, for the assistance of the user groups in being our eyes and ears on the network and in volunteering in waymarking and minor vegetation cutting. One area where we’re particularly grateful this year is in East Cheshire Ramblers allowing us to use their survey of the network in their area of the borough to assess the quality of the network in terms of its ease of use i.e. is the signposting and furniture condition adequate to enable somebody with an Ordnance Survey map use a path. Using the Ramblers’ definitions of class A and B paths as equivalent to our previous ‘ease of use’ definition, this gave a result of 93% for the borough which is a very high standard, and one that the Ramblers have noted is a steady improvement over the preceding records of over 15 years. Previously we’ve done a much smaller survey of a random selection of paths across the borough in-house – the use of the Ramblers’ survey gives us a much greater coverage and we’d be keen to explore if other groups would be interested in expanding the geographic spread of the survey to cover their areas as well. Doing this would not only return a wider survey result, but would give us the feedback on the condition of the network and highlight any issues that need resolving. If your group would be interested in hearing more about how a survey could work, please do let me know.
I hope this update is of interest and look forward to seeing you on 6th October when again we’ll meet through Microsoft Teams.