Changes to our Public Rights of Way Work
Updated 29th March 2023
Due to the large (real terms) decrease in the Government Grant for National Park Authorities over the last few years, along with ongoing financial pressures for energy, labour and materials, we need to review our approach to our Public Rights of Way maintenance work and reduce costs in this area, along with other parts of our business.
We recognise how important our Public Rights of Way (PROW) are for helping people enjoy Exmoor and supporting the local tourism economy, which is why we have historically put a large proportion of our resources towards maintaining a first-class network.
PROW maintenance responsibility is a discretionary activity for Exmoor National Park Authority which we take on through agency agreements with the two county councils of Devon and Somerset, both of whom make financial contributions to assist us with this work. Despite their own challenging financial circumstances, both Somerset and Devon County Councils have agreed significant uplifts in the contribution they make from April 2023 onwards, and this welcome news has allowed us to plan to keep the PROW maintenance duty for at least the next three years.
However, despite this contribution and a special one-off payment we have received from Defra, we will still need to make financial savings. We are reviewing all our maintenance activity on PROW to help reduce our costs. We will continue to ensure the whole network is safe, but our current high standards and our speed of response on less popular routes will be impacted. Our support for permitted paths, where access is granted by the landowner, will also be reviewed.
Our Field Services Team, based at our Exford Depot, carry out most of our practical works to maintain the Public Paths across the National Park, including replacing gates, maintaining drains and path surfaces, and cutting back vegetation to keep paths open and easy to use. Our PROW work, through our Field Services Team, will drop by up to 40 per cent under current plans, however capacity at our Exford depot will be retained and diverted to maintenance works on our own estate (ENPA owns 7 per cent of the National Park including a range of property and buildings). We hope this approach will allow us to retain local jobs and capacity at our Exford Depot.
We will also be reviewing our provision of gates and stiles for stock control on the PROW network. The legal duty of the Highway Authority is to provide a 25 per cent contribution for the costs of replacement stock control furniture, and we are no longer able to provide full materials and installation costs in all cases, as we have done historically. We will develop our approach to this over the next 12 months working closely with farmers, land managers and other affected parties.
We will also need to review our vegetation cutting (paring) programme for this coming summer and beyond. We typically use around 210 person days doing this work each year and this will probably reduce to around 160.
Savings within our Ranger and office-based team will also have some impact, particularly around our capacity to carry out path diversions, other legal work, public communication, events management and special projects. We have also reviewed our fees for our legal work and other activities to help ensure we can provide best value from our government funded income.
We want to thank everyone for their understanding as we work through these changes, and we hope the Exmoor community and our visitors can work positively with us to find the best way forward. We plan to expand our volunteer programme and our CareMoor visitor giving scheme to make it as easy as possible for people to contribute and get involved. Please get in touch with us if you think you can help or have any suggestions, comments or questions in relation to this matter.
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