31 January 2013
In receiving the Ramblers’ petition today (30 January 2013), we acknowledge their undoubted commitment to National Trails and their ambition to play a greater part in the central management of National Trails
We wish to make it clear, however, that the Review that is currently being conducted is not a policy review concerned with the general purpose of National Trails and it is not a review of the national leadership of National Trails. Natural England and Defra remain committed to National Trails – as the consultation Discussion Document confirms - and the Review has focussed specifically at operational issues relating to Natural England’s funding and management of National Trails, something which it is within our remit to change as required.
The Review has recommended that central government should continue to invest in Trail maintenance across England but also that Trail Partnerships should take responsibility for local delivery, giving greater flexibility as to how best to use the resources available and to enable them to work to secure other funding where possible
That does not mean there cannot be further debate about National Trails, and particularly whether we can revise or broaden the national leadership. We will make sure that the Ramblers have an opportunity to present their thinking to us, Defra and other partners as part of this future process. But we do have to conclude the present review first and get funding and other management arrangements in place by April 2013 to ensure that there is no interruption to the present delivery.
Our full response to the petition can be found on our National Trail review page.