Volunteers surveyed the entire public rights of way (PROW) network in the Yorkshire Dales National Park during the year 2020/21, despite the Coronavirus pandemic, the annual general meeting of the National Park Authority heard today.
The survey – known as the ‘parish paths survey’ – means that public paths across 98 parishes are walked and a record made. It shows the condition of every path, stile and river crossing in the 841 square miles of the National Park.
In a separate survey of a random sample of 5% of the PROW network, volunteers found that 88% of the network was easy to use – a figure in line with the Authority’s ‘ease of use’ target of 90% by 2023. This shows that most of the network is well-signposted and free from unlawful obstructions, with surfaces, gates and other infrastructure in good repair.
The National Park Authority’s AGM was held today at the Garden Rooms at Tennants in Leyburn. The venue made social distancing possible. Apart from the PROW annual report (see item 14), Members noted the new grants scheme for farmers that the Authority is administering as well as the annual report of the National Park Management Plan partnership. They also made decisions on the development of a new set of planning policies (item 10) for the National Park.
Member Champion for Recreation Management, Nick Cotton, said: “The great value of a well-maintained public rights of way network in the Yorkshire Dales National Park has never been more obvious. Outside of the ‘stay at home’ periods of the Coronavirus epidemic, the Yorkshire Dales National Park has been a refuge for many people. A far greater proportion of visitors in the past year have been first time visitors, compared with previous years, and having a well maintained rights of way network means that they have had certainty about where they can go.
“I would like to thank our volunteers for the work they have done to keep the network in good condition. Volunteers completed 424 days of practical work in the past year, well down on the year before owing to Coronavirus, but still very significant, while the surveying of the network continued undiminished, with 475 volunteer days given over the course of 12 months. Rights of way work is the National Park Authority’s bread and butter and I am pleased that high standards are being kept.”
The Public Rights of Way annual report will now be submitted to Cumbria County Council and North Yorkshire County Council, which retain statutory responsibility for PROW. The National Park Authority does this work under delegated powers because it recognises that a well-managed network is fundamental to the enjoyment of the special qualities of the area and brings benefits to everyone.