Rights of way are important because they:
Improved management, combined with better information and the creation of new routes in carefully chosen locations would make a significant difference to people who use, or would like to use, footpaths, bridleways and byways.
Section 60 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW Act) requires local highway authorities to publish a Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) covering all of their area. This must be produced in draft form for public consultation, then published by November 2007. The ROWIP must then be reviewed at least every 10 years.
ROWIPs are intended to be the prime means by which local highway authorities will identify the changes that need to be made to meet the Government’s aim of better provision for walkers, cyclists, equestrians and people with limited mobility.
ROWIPs will not just focus on rights of way. They will identify improvements to footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways, byways, cycle tracks and permissive paths. And they will also consider linkage with the wider access network that includes open access, quiet lanes and other roads.
ROWIPs will not just seek to improve infrastructure, although this is important. They will also identify any improvements that need to be made in the management of access, and the provision of access information.
ROWIPs will have two parts.
Part I will set out:
Part II will be a Statement of Action that will include:
In identifying the improvements to be made, access authorities must take account of the needs of both local people and visitors. They must assess:
In making these assessments, access authorities should consider, for example, the adequacy of:
These assessments will result in a set of prioritised actions that will go in Part II of the ROWIP. These actions could be:
Local highway authorities already have duties under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Highways Act 1980 to maintain and keep the definitive map and statement of public rights of way and to ensure that ways are adequately signposted, maintained and free from obstruction. These matters will therefore only appear in the ROWIP Statement of Action if they are identified as a priority for improvement.
There is no statutory duty to implement Rights of Way Improvement Plan actions. This means that, while extra funding has been allocated to prepare ROWIPs, local highway authorities will need to enter partnerships and seek funding from a wide variety of sources to implement their Statement of Action.
Before preparing or reviewing a rights of way improvement plan, local highway authorities must consult the local access forums in their area. The role of local access forums may include: