65 percent of people in Britain want their councils to follow scientific advice and reopen local trails, according to a new ICM Research poll.

Nearly seven in ten urge councils to reopen trails

The poll, commissioned by the Ramblers’ Association, found 65 per cent of those questioned believe their council should reopen its rights-of-way network in line with veterinary guidance.

Yet a Ramblers’ Association survey conducted earlier this week found that the majority of local councils in England and Wales are ignoring scientific advice and refusing to reopen public paths.

The largest indicator yet of local authority activity shows that nine in ten highway authorities shut almost all their rural paths when first granted emergency powers to impose restrictions. Eight in ten councils have as many closed now and the indications are that this will be little improved in time for Easter, with at least seven in ten persisting with blanket restrictions.

A separate poll by the National Farmers Union Countryside found that almost two thirds of people who were planning an Easter countryside holiday have cancelled their trip due to foot-and-mouth. This underlines the importance of reopening substantial parts of the rights-of-way network in order to give the public the confidence to return to the countryside.

Advice published almost a fortnight ago by the Ministry of Agriculture states that there is no veterinary justification for the blanket closure of rights of way in all areas during the foot-and-mouth crisis. MAFF guidelines suggest that areas with no outbreaks should be able to open most rights of way, yet at least 90 per cent of trails are still closed in four out of five disease-free areas.

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