Yesterday's recognition by Tony Blair that "foot and mouth isn't beaten yet" and that there is more to do in overcoming the crisis caused by the enforced closure of much of the British countryside has been cautiously welcomed by the Outdoor Industries Association (which repeats its demand for cheap loans for FMD-blighted businesses)

FMD is far from beaten says PM, and OIA agrees

OIA director Andrew Maxted said:

"Despite the headlines encouraging people back into the countryside, the government’s own estimates are that less than 25 percent of England’s rights of way are open as we head into the May Day holiday weekend."

"And the access situation in the National Parks of England and Wales, as well as parts of Scotland, remains considerably worse."

"Our members are suffering horrendously as walkers, climbers, campers and

other outdoor enthusiasts are unable to enjoy their pursuits and spending

less in outdoor clothing and equipment stores."

"Our latest survey shows that for many of our members turnover more than halved last

month, taking losses across the outdoor sector to date to over £30m – and most members believe it will be well into the summer before they see any uplift."

"As the media focus turns away from foot and mouth, we know we are facing an

uphill struggle to persuade government to support our sector, but good businesses are struggling to retain staff and meet bills. The support offered so far has been woefully inadequate and the need for a low cost, low administration loan scheme to help members’ cash flow is increasing rather than decreasing as the enforced closure of the countryside continues to take its toll."

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