We want footpaths, off-road cycle routes, and bridleways to be de-restricted and turned into ‘public rights of way’; accessible to pedestrians, horses, and bicycles.
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Increasing off-road access reduces risk to vulnerable road users, whose numbers have increased without infrastructural developments to match.
Firstly, we would like the government to derestrict access through the implementation of public rights of way to reduce road incidents involving horses and cyclists. Secondly, increased off-road access could encourage people to cycle, which may help with the government’s fight against the obesity epidemic. Thirdly, implementing public rights of way would aid the government’s goal of promoting lower carbon transport by increasing the usage of sustainable transport, such as cycling, for commuting and leisure.
Tuesday 14th June 2022
As local authorities already have responsibility for managing public rights of way for the benefit of users the Government feels it is not necessary to implement the changes set out in the petition.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 compels local highway authorities to prepare and publish rights of way improvement plans for an improved network of local rights of way for public benefit.
Management of public rights of way is the responsibility of local highway authorities. Legislation requires that local authorities produce rights of way improvement plans that set out how they are planning to provide a better experience for walkers, cyclists, horse riders, and those with mobility problems in their areas.
Procedures are also in place to change the status of public rights of way with the agreement of local authorities where it is in the public interest to do so. Convenience, safety and other such concerns are taken into consideration as part of these processes.
The Government recognises the role that rights of way play in the nation’s physical and mental wellbeing, and is committed to improving access to the countryside in different ways.
This includes supporting our network of National Trails, completing the England Coast Path, and the intention to create a new National Trail across the North of England. We are committed to increasing accessibility where possible for those with reduced mobility.
We are working collaboratively across government to seek opportunities to continue to improve access to the outdoors. We are developing the UK-wide Levelling Up Parks Fund with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which will create parks and green spaces on urban land which has become unused, undeveloped or neglected. We are also supporting the Department for Transport’s work on active travel to boost cycling and walking.
The Government’s response to the Landscapes Review sets out our ambition to level up opportunities for all parts of society to have access to nature, whilst also supporting local communities that live and work in our protected landscapes.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/610936)