Ros Mills, Public Rights of Way Manager, reported that targets had been met for the year end. The Public Rights of Way Warden and Legal and Development teams had done an excellent job and work programmes were in place.
Key strategic matters for the future were:
1. Improvements to the IT and GIS systems to assist inspections and to keep a digital legal library of records affecting each route. This would enable Orders to be attached to the definitive line which would be more efficient.
2. A programme of re-surfacing for recreational and multi-use trails. These are re-surfaced on an ad-hoc basis when funds allow. The aim is to have a five-year rolling programme in place, with advice from Highway Asset Team colleagues. It will be important to identify costs and commit funding, increasingly important with the likely growth agenda and increased use of such routes. Installation of routes attracts capital funding to ensure green infrastructure and planning targets are met, however ongoing maintenance is an issue.
3. Country Parks are important recreational assets.
· Stover Country Park is re-submitting its Heritage Lottery Fund bid to improve the park in its historic house and garden setting. It is hoped the DCAF will send a new letter of support and a request will be sent shortly.
· The Grand Western Canal has dealt with badger encroachment and part of the towpath has been underpinned using a grid system. This has alleviated the problem in the short term but it will be a future issue.
Both country parks have issues with dogs. The parks are working to retain their Green Flag Awards.
The revenue budget for 2019/20 had been cut slightly but capital had been increased by just over £200,000. DCC as an authority recognised the benefit of a well-managed access network.
Gordon Guest offered to update the chart of scooter sizes and capacity to assist DCC in planning for disability access.
Action: Gordon Guest
The importance of wheelchair accessible toilets on recreational trails was raised. These encouraged disabled people to be more active and promoted tourism. Ros Mills confirmed that historically the Environment Team was involved in business liaison and promotion for any route but now fewer staff were involved in delivery. The Public Rights of Way team had no involvement in negotiation or liaison.
Ros Mills, DCC, reported that issues had arisen on the Exe Estuary due to its increasing popularity. A DCC working group was being set up to look at soft messaging and ways of mitigating conflict between different groups. The Exe Estuary is not a public right of way so legislation could not be applied. Two members of the DCAF, Sarah Slade and Gordon Guest, had been asked to participate and provide advice alongside members of the Exe Estuary Forum.
Concerns about cycling speed were not specific to the Exe Estuary trail. It was noted that electric bikes were a new factor.
A discussion took place about the need to persuade businesses of the benefit of offering disabled toilets. Disabled visitors often had other people with them. There were 2.35m Blue Badge holders in England at the end of March 2018. Technology developments meant that disabled users could explore over longer distances.
At the previous meeting, Richard Walton SWCP National Trail Officer, had mentioned the possibility of funding through the South West Coast Path Association for toilet improvements. It was noted that associations or trusts could take on a role in improving facilities. Businesses and parish organisations could have a role too. Potentially, it was also something that could be asked of developers if they are seeking permission to access a trail, for example the Tarka Trail. Historically, during the planning process, opportunities may have been missed to use s106.
It was suggested that making Sustainable Accessible Natural Green Space (SANGS) sites multi-use could displace people from sensitive wildlife sites, particularly if linked to the existing public rights of way network. It was noted there will be consultation on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan later in the year and this may cover SANGS sites and areas for quiet enjoyment such as dog walking. A complementary document will focus on the sensitivities of different sites in terms of flooding, ecology and historic interest.
The Chair suggested, and it was agreed, that a working group to look at some of the issues affecting trails would be useful, exploring increased use, the differences between functional and recreational use, and the associated facilities that could be provided. It was agreed later in the meeting to make this the key focus of the forthcoming training day to be followed up by a working group.
Helen Clayton, Senior Officer Public Rights of Way, confirmed that the Definitive Map Review was 82% complete with a further 7% in progress. The next Public Rights of Way Committee would be held in July.
The Ramblers had appealed a Planning Inspectorate decision not to confirm a footpath in Luppitt. The Planning Inspectorate decision had been quashed and the case will have to be determined again.
The Parish Paths Partnership (P3) surveys were all in and grants had been sent out.
It was hoped to consider public rights of way matters at an early stage in the development of the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan.