Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP)
The Council has recently adopted a Rights of Way Improvement Plan for the County. The plan is a requirement of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and is intended to be the prime means by which we will identify changes to be made in respect of the management and improvement of the local rights of way network.
The plan makes an assessment of:
- The extent to which local rights of way meet the present and the likely future needs of the public,
- The opportunities which local rights of way provide for exercise and other forms of open-air recreation and the enjoyment of the authorities area,
- The accessibility of local rights of way to blind and partially sighted persons and others with restricted mobility.
Different users and their needs
In making our assessment we have drawn on research undertaken by the Countryside Agency and other local authorities to help us understand people’s use of the countryside. The consistency of the findings from around the country has given us reason to believe that the needs of residents and visitors to Rutland will be similar to elsewhere.
However, we also asked local people about their use of the network, and an extensive consultation exercise was conducted early in 2006.
Questionnaires were made available at various sites across the County, including council offices, local libraries, doctors' surgeries and selected shops. They were also made available on-line via the County Council website.
We also conducted surveys with local walking and riding groups, members of the Stamford and Rutland branch of the National Farmers Union, Town and Parish councils and groups representing blind and partially sighted persons and others with restricted mobility.
The issues identified by the assessment of user needs and demands are:
- Routes are not easy to find or follow,
- Maintenance of the network could be improved,
- There are too many barriers on the network,
- The network does not adequately provide for horse riders and cyclists,
- People have to use or cross busy roads to link sections of the network,
- The network is fragmented and there are not enough circular routes,
- There are not enough routes for people with mobility problems,
- Provision of information about the network is inadequate,
A report on the findings from local consultation (pdf file) was published in July 2006..
Also as part of the assessment an examination of the definitive map and statement for Rutland was undertaken, so that we might assess the extent to which routes and networks are available to different groups of users and identify gaps and areas of deficiency. The findings from this investigation can be used to help target or prioritise the improvements to the network that we are proposing.
A number of general conclusions can be made from the assessment of the network:
- The density of the rights of way network in Rutland is mostly uniform, with routes being relatively evenly distributed across the county. There are, however, some small but noticeable gaps in provision,
- There is no correlation between population density and network density, and so routes in and around centres of population may be subject to greater use than those further out in the countryside,
- There is a much smaller network of routes available to cyclists and horse riders than there is for walkers, which is highly fragmented,
- Opportunities for off-road driving are very limited,
- Gaps in the rights of way network may encourage people to trespass or use ‘busy’ sections of road to link off-road routes,
- Many routes have been ‘severed’ by busy roads and railway lines,
- The physical condition of the network is currently quite good, but more could still be done,
- There is lack of objective information on the accessibility of routes,
After completing the assessments the next stage in the process was the publication of a draft Plan (pdf file). The draft plan contains a statement of the action the authority is proposing to take over the life of the Plan for the management of local rights of way and for securing an improved network.
It was published in June 2007 and was subject to twelve weeks public consultation that ended on the 25th August 2007. During this second round of consultation we invited comments on the Plans contents and also asked respondents to prioritise the proposals contained in the Statement of Action.
Response to Consultation Draft (pdf file).
The Finished Plan
Some minor modifications were made to the draft Plan in response to the comments received during the public consultation. Timescales for implementation of different aspects of the Statement of Action were also added to the final version. We prepared a report that gives details of the authority's response to the various comments we recieved, and whether or not the draft Plan was modified accordingly.
The amended version of the Rights of Way Improvement Plan (pdf file) was adopted by Rutland County Council on the 8th October 2007