Lack of resources is causing Herefordshire's public footpaths to disintegrate, according to Dave Howerski, the Open Spaces Society's correspondent for south Herefordshire.
The society campaigns for public rights of way (PROWs) to be accessible. Mr. Howerski claims that Herefordshire Council and its public realm contractor, Balfour Beatty, are not reporting the full number of defects to the 3,400-kilometre network that runs throughout the county.
Mr. Howerski stated that there are between 2,000 and 2,500 minor defects in the network that take 18 months to three years to repair. Mr. Howerski alleges that the PROW department is understaffed and underfunded, which is why it takes so long to repair minor defects.
The Herefordshire Local Access Forum, which allows volunteers to voice concerns to council staff, has not been active for two decades, causing problems with gathering accurate information about the network's state. Mr. Howerski has been using freedom of information requests to obtain more information about the council's work.
Recently, he discovered that 36 of 48 obstructed rights of way that the Golden Valley Walking Club notified the council about from January to December of the previous year were not inspected or acted upon. This has led Mr. Howerski to conclude that the council is not fulfilling its legal obligation. Peter Newman, the Open Spaces Society's north Herefordshire correspondent, confirmed that reports of issues on the rights of way network are usually ignored for years, if not forever.
The Herefordshire Council spokesperson stated that they prioritize issues to ensure that the public rights of way network remains usable. The council values its relationship with local communities and volunteers and will address their concerns.
However, they did not disclose the number of obstructions on the rights of way, how long it takes to repair them, or the funding and staffing levels allocated for the work. The situation is not good for promoting tourism in Herefordshire, according to Newman.