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Agenda item

Draft Rights of Way Improvement Plan 2018-2028 (RoWIP)

Decision:

(a)       That the draft Rights of Way Improvement Plan and policy and procedures booklet as part of the three month statutory consultation, be supported; and

 

(b)       That a further report be submitted to the Committee in March 2019.

 

Minutes:

            The Chief Officer (Planning, Environment and Economy) introduced the report on the new Rights of Way Improvement Plan 2018-2028 as part of the 3 month statutory consultation.  He provided background information and advised that this second ROWIP assessed the 2018 network and evaluates progress made since 2008.  The current (2018) policy context is examined, priority areas identified and a new style Statement of Action put forward.  The Chief Officer invited the Access and Natural Environment Manager to present the report.

 

                        The Access and Natural Environment Manager explained that the first ROWIP had identified a number of areas as being key priorities for 2008-2018.  Of the 22 tasks identified 7 had been completed, or substantial progress made, while a further 7 had made little or no progress and 8 had made partial progress.  However, record of data had been found to be inconsistent and sometimes lacking causing difficulty in identifying progress in some areas. 

 

The Access and Natural Environment Manager reported on the main considerations, as detailed in the report.  He advised that a Policy and Procedure booklet had already been developed as a priority.  The policies and procedures would form the basis of a booklet to be made available to users of the Public Rights of Way network and to landowners in order that there is widespread understanding and transparency about what Flintshire County Council does and how it does it. 

 

Councillor Paul Shotton referred to the 1800 individual public paths which made up the public rights of way network in 2018 and commented on the volume of work in  managing and maintaining the network and the importance of volunteers in providing assistance in that task.  He suggested there could be a greater role for volunteers going forward.  The Access and Natural Environment Manager acknowledged the important role undertaken by volunteers in assisting rangers and also referred to local groups which undertook voluntary work to assist the countryside service.  In response to the comments made by Councillor Shotton regarding signposting the Access and Natural Environment Manager explained that further progress had been made and work was ongoing, in response to a further question from Councillor Shotton he explained that consultation on the draft Rights of Way Improvement Plan would end in January 2019. 

 

Councillor Chris Dolphin referred to page 56 of the report and the issue around the difficulty experienced by people in electric wheelchairs in gaining access along the Wales Coast Path due to barriers.  He asked how this problem was being addressed and spoke of the importance of retaining barriers and in certain areas to problems experienced in the past.   The Access and Natural Environment Manager explained that the Authority’s position was legal but was reviewing its position in terms of the barriers and was looking to undertake wider consultation on this matter in the New Year.  Councillor Carolyn Thomas spoke of the need for equal access for all to the Wales Coast Path. 

 

Councillor David Evans asked for an update on the Local Access Forum. The Access and Natural Environment Manager advised that the Local Access Forums in Flintshire County Council and Wrexham County Borough Council had combined to become a joint forum with 15 members.  He anticipated that the first meeting of the new joint Local Access Forum would be held in the New Year.

 

Councillor Owen Thomas commented on the high number of individual public footpaths and said many in his Ward were unused and were not maintained.  He asked if maintenance could be enforced and if the need to keep all footpaths open could be reconsidered.   The Chief Officer (Planning, Environment and Economy) advised that landowners had a duty and responsibility to keep footpaths open.  He referred to the importance of the public rights of way network as a valuable resource in promoting a healthy living lifestyle and providing voluntary access to the countryside.  He advised that an action plan was being produced to ensure that the public footpaths network would be maintained in the future.  

 

Councillor Carolyn Thomas commented on the robust legal process which would be required to remove a public footpath which was no longer in use and reiterated that it was the landowner’s duty and  responsibility to maintain a public footpath on his land.

 

Councillor Haydn Bateman raised questions concerning information available for land managers and path users, and the development of GIS as a proactive management and decision-making tool.  The Access and Natural Environment Manager responded to the questions on information and promotion, and referring to GIS said that an additional package was trialled and developed this year and work was in progress. 

 

The Team Leader – Access, Planning & Environment, provided an update on the CAMS system and advised that discussions had already commenced with Town and Community Councils and walking groups regarding the plan. The Chief Officer (Planning and Environment) suggested that an information session on the CAMS system could be provided before the start of a future meeting.

 

Councillor Veronica Gay raised the problem of responsibility for maintenance of public footpaths in urban areas that crossed the border of one local authority to another and cited a public footpath in her Ward as an example.  The Access and Natural Environment Manager explained that the Authority worked closely with other local authorities in Wales and cited Wrexham County Borough Council and Denbighshire County Council as examples.  He agreed to take the matter raised by Councillor Gay forward and provide a response.

 

Councillor Paul Shotton thanked Councillor Carolyn Thomas for her attendance at a meeting with wheelchair users and the Flintshire Disability Access Forum to seek solutions to the issue of access for larger wheelchairs in some areas. 

 

RESOLVED:

 

(a)       That the draft Rights of Way Improvement Plan and policy and procedures booklet as part of the three month statutory consultation, be supported; and

 

(b)       That a further report be submitted to the Committee in March 2019.

Supporting documents:

 

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