11 May 2012
Natural England will today write to over 160 outdoor organisations and local authorities to ask their views about proposals to alter the ways National Trails in England are looked after in the future.
The consultation - A family of unique trails: Natural England discussion paper on the future management of National Trails from 2013 - proposes a fairer and more flexible funding structure and a greater involvement for local groups and organisations in the ways in which Trails are looked after.
National Trails are a world-class family of long distance paths which provide outstanding walking routes, and many horseriding and cycling opportunities, through our finest landscapes. Marked with the familiar acorn symbol, there are 13 routes in England forming a path network of over 3,500km. National Trails are cared for and managed by 50 local highway authorities and the cost of this work, including the employment of National Trail officers, is mainly funded by Defra, via Natural England.
The consultation, starting today, will involve all the organisations involved in managing National Trails and all the main groups representing users of the network. Running for eight weeks (and closing at midnight on the 5th July) the consultation will look to explore views on how to;
Involve local people and communities in looking after National Trails
Give Local authorities more autonomy over how they manage the National Trail funding they receive. Under the proposals, Local Authorities could receive a single grant rather than a grant for specific items, which will enable a flexible response to each Trail’s needs.
Develop a flexible management programme for National Trails that recognises the different investment and maintenance needs of National Trails.
Liz Newton, Director for Access said; “Our National Trails are world-class tourist attractions offering locals and visitors the opportunity to explore England’s rich landscapes and diverse wildlife. They are the gold standard for public access but we have to look at how each distinct Trail is cared for to ensure they are all on a sustainable course for the future. The consultation will provide a valuable opportunity for all parties to share views on the way forward”
Natural England will analyse the responses from the consultation and publish a report, which will set out our response to the views we receive. We intend to introduce some changes from April 2013, but only after further conversations with other organisations during the autumn of 2012 about how we manage the implementation.
Notes to editors:
The paper and further information can be found on our website here.
For further information contact: Emma Lusby, Natural England’s Press office on 0300 0604231 or 07900 608073 or the out of hours duty press officer on 07970 098 005 www.naturalengland.org.uk