Claims that Monmouthshire has the most access to public rights of way in England and Wales, has been debunked by a rights-of-way enthusiast.
Mark Holland who was born and brought up in the county says that the enthusiasm shown by the research from the Ramblers and the New Economics Foundation think tank seems “entirely based on a desk exercise that looked at the length of PRoW in counties nationwide”.
Having farmed in Devauden for a number of years, Mark says that they “simply looked at the length of PRoW and concluded that Monmouthshire is “rambling heaven”
According to Monmouthshire County Council and Monlife’s 2020 document “Monmouthshire’s Countryside Access Improvement Plan 2020 – 2030” it admits that “ Funding shortfalls remain a serious concern to all interested parties. The current capital budget for maintaining the network in 2019 is £38,000 and 10 times too small”.
It goes on to say “The backlog of known maintenance issues is estimated at £4 million plus. The backlog of building obstructions will cost over £532,000 if dealt with by legal order. Annually there is a need for at least £452,151 to be spent on maintaining the network to replace signage, bridges, gates & some surfacing (not including backlog of issues and revenue costs like staff, or cutting programmes) to keep the asset in optimum condition”.
Promoting the network of footpaths nationwide, Jack Cornish, head of paths at the Ramblers, said readily available walking routes can have a “massive impact” on health outcomes.
However, he warned these currently benefit “the old, the healthy, the wealthy and the white”, while those in more deprived areas have far less access to nature.
The Ramblers’ charity has further called for a £650 million investment in paths across England and Wales – which they say could pay dividends in improving the nation’s health.
The MCC/Monlife document countryside access plan - www.monlife.co.uk/outdoor/countryside-access/ - says that the 2007-2017 Rights of Way Improvement Plan (RoWIP) provided opportunity for significant grant income, from a number of sources, which in the last 5 years has totalled £623,095 of grant from Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales, Heritage Lottery Fund and European Funding (£1,060,705 since 2011). £4m has been secured through collaborative landscape partnership schemes in the Wye Valley, Blaenavon World Heritage Site”.
Mark sums it up by saying that “in reality Monmouthshire is one of the worst counties for looking after PRoW, with severe all-time under-funding (long-time Conservative County Council majority and MP) and poor performance on giving potential users any confidence that they will be able to complete a trip”.
He is due to meet with two senior MCC staff over a complaint he made covering areas of very poor performance and claimed obstructiveness over public access to the ‘List of Streets’, very poor navigation on the website to PRoW, the information provided to the Contact Centre and their overall performance and poor layout of the website.