National Trails campaign launched
Ramblers has launched its ‘Campaign for National Trails’ in response to new government proposals for the management of National Trails in England – which the charity fears would cause a dramatic decline in their quality.
The proposals – unveiled by the government on 11 May – would see Local Trail Partnerships take over the management of the 13 trails in England from central government, leaving the trails without a national body to champion them or plan strategically for their future. This untested model would make it impossible to uphold a national standard for National Trails – which are a huge attraction for overseas visitors as well as British walkers – with the quality of trails instead decided on a trail by trail basis.
“We are deeply concerned that if current proposals go ahead, the quality of the National Trails network will be at risk,” says Benedict Southworth, Chief Executive of the Ramblers. “We feel very strongly that there is a need for a national body or association to work together with Local Trail Partnerships.”
Funding for the trails would also be subject to Local Trail Partnerships negotiating with already squeezed Highway Authorities and other stakeholders to provide the 25% of funding not supplied by central government. The Ramblers is concerned this would result in unwelcome red tape with the Pennine Way – the first National Trail to be set up in 1965 – alone having to coordinate budgets between 10 Highway Authorities, three National Parks and one Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The proposals also fail to incorporate plans to integrate the English Coastal Path – which will be designated a National Trail in its own right when it opens in full – which would see the number of miles of National Trails in England double.
After playing a critical role in establishing National Trails we want the most for their future and are concerned that the Government’s proposals do not do justice to the jewels of the footpath network in England.
Britain’s walking charity is also worried that the timetable for divesting responsibility from central government to Local Trail Partnerships – from April 2013 – is too ambitious, posing the risk that Partnerships could be set in haste in order to fit with the government’s plans. The Ramblers has worked with local user groups to produce its response to the proposals and has also been writing to ministers outlining their concerns; as well as talking to businesses with a vested interest in National Trails to gather their views.
You can find out more about National Trails and the new proposals by reading Ramblers Chief Executive Benedict Southworth’s latest blog for walk and keep up to date with the latest from the Campaign for National Trails by signing up for campaign updates.
We’d also like to hear your National Trails stories and are looking for trail champions to help us with the campaign. To get involved find and follow @RamblersGB or post a message on the Ramblers Facebook page.
Top image: The South Downs Way by Simon Carey via geograph.org.uk. Lower image: View from the Yorkshire Wolds Way © Natural England / Mike Kipling