Cabinet Member: Councillor Dafydd Meurig
Consider the Cabinet Members Report
a) A report was submitted by the Cabinet Member on the proposal to review and update the Rights of Way Improvement Plan and receive the Committee's initial input to the process. It was explained that the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 placed a duty on authorities to prepare and publish a Rights of Way Improvement Plan. It was added that there was a statutory requirement to review the plan every 10 years and Gwynedd needed to undertake a review before November 2017.
b) It was highlighted that the Welsh Government had published a guidance for Local Authorities which explained the procedure and steps to be taken to undertake the review together with the preparation for a new plan. The Authority had to consider the purpose and use of the Plan as a document that encompassed the Authority's duties and sets priorities in the field of rights of way and access by foot, bicycle and on horseback.
c) Since the plan's publication in 2007, it was reported that major changes had influenced this field, such as cuts in maintenance budgets for the network of paths, the coming and influence of new legislation that overlapped the access field, together with a general growth in the call for high standard paths and facilities and a recognition of their importance to the tourism industry.
ch) The Committee was requested to agree that there was a need and justification to prepare a new plan for Gwynedd and to be supportive of the intention to review the plan.
d) In response to a question regarding the network in the County, the Senior Manager Planning and Environment noted that the existing plan prioritised popular paths and therefore this was where resources were placed. It was added that a review would give Gwynedd an opportunity to look again at the priorities in terms of network maintenance rather than prioritise the most popular paths. He added that reviewing the plan would be a valuable task.
dd) In response to a comment regarding equal access rights to all, it was reported that the Equal Rights Act would be considered as part of the review and equality assessments would need to be implemented.
e) In response to a comment regarding the possibility of collaboration with the National Park, although it was not necessary for the Park to be part of the review, it was noted that discussions had been conducted with the Park for approximately 18 months. Although it was not statutory for the Park to produce a plan, in practice it would make sense to establish a plan that would meet with the requirements of the Council and the Park. It was added that the Park supported the principle of preparing a joint Plan. The need to discuss resources and finance was recognised, but with the need for specialist knowledge about the Park network it was suggested that by working together the plan would be more robust and practical.
f) In response to a comment regarding how the paths would be prioritised and the need to consider local resources to keep the paths open, it was reported that a new plan would not give details of specific paths, but would look at putting a framework in place to prioritise work and to try and ensure effective operational arrangements.
ff) During the discussion the following observations were noted:
• What was the size of the network? Was it possible to focus on the paths that are used mostly?
• Accepted that a review was necessary, however they should be careful regarding how it was implemented
• There were insufficient resources in 2007, therefore what would the position be in 2016?
• They had to invest in a resource that would be required in the future - important for the tourism industry
• Was it possible to attract resources from other sources?
• It was necessary to see that Biodiversity was included in the discussions
It was highlighted that any investments and improvements to the rights of way network were likely to be totally dependent on grant monies.
The recommendation was proposed and seconded.
a) that the Committee support the intention to review and prepare a Rights of Way Improvement Plan for Gwynedd and that the Regulatory Department identifies methods of pooling resources for this work.
b) that the Department contacts the Welsh Government to impress upon them to fund the review.
c) that the Cabinet Member submits a progress report to the Scrutiny Committee in approximately 6 months time