Park authority defends record on footpath maintenance

The woman's body was found near the Pennine Way above Horton in Ribbledale.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has defended its work to maintain and improve rights of way after revealing it had achieved only 25 per cent of its targets in the past five years.

A full meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority heard numerous factors, such as damage caused by Storm Desmond in December 2015, had diverted resources away from general maintenance, while financial pressures had seen large-scale schemes that would have been contracted out taken back on by the authority.

Members were told the authority had also fallen short due to the 22 per cent increase in the size of the park in 2016, with the standard of rights of way in the new areas being below what had been achieved elsewhere in the park.

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The authority’s member champion for recreation management Nick Cotton said: “If you were being picky you could say this is dreadful.

“Six out of eight targets we haven’t achieved. However, it doesn’t take much scrutiny to see the targets we are setting ourselves are very high and what we failed by are tiny percentages.”

The head of park management, Alan Hulme, said the authority’s target to increase the proportion of the rights of way that are easy to use from 84 per cent to 90 per cent in five years would be “testing” due to the large amount of infrastructure that it included.

The meeting heard members welcome the authority’s new five-year plan, but express concerns over its policy to limit the use of waymarks in upland areas to minimise signs of human activity as “typical users could be expected to carry a map and compass”.

Mr Cotton said while the authority was trying to widen the variety of people appreciating the park, there remained “the whiff of the bearded, white 65-year-old man with his compass and paper map who’s the only person allowed out on the fells”.

He said: “A park where people don’t get lost is a park we should be proud of and there are subtle ways of putting signs here and there that enable people to navigate.”

Member Caroline Thornton-Berry added the lack of mobile phone coverage exacerbated the situation and that she had found walkers in Wensleydale without maps “thrashing about in woods, tied up in wild raspberries”.