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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 June, 2004, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Welsh footpaths 'at crisis point'
Footpaths week is due to run until 25 June
Footpaths in Wales are falling into disrepair, the Ramblers' Association (RA) has warned.

Launching its National Footpaths Week, the walkers charity claims that only 10% of paths in Carmarthenshire are classed as easy to use.

It is closely followed by Ceredigion at 27% and Pembrokeshire at 34%.

The RA says action and investment is desperately needed and is urging the public to lobby local councils.

The organisation claims that Welsh assembly figures show that there has been a 12% increase in the number of problems associated with footpaths.

Problems walkers encounter include missing signposts, locked gates, overgrown hedges and thick undergrowth blocking paths.

More serious long-term problems include missing bridges and disputes over the line of the path.

Councils in some of our most attractive areas are effectively telling tourists to stay away
Beverley Penney
The walkers charity also points to official figures which show the proportion of unusable paths in England and Wales has grown from 31% to 35% in the last year.

It claims walking currently contributes around 132m to the Welsh economy, 55m in rural areas, supporting 3,000 rural jobs.

The call for action is part of Footpaths Week when the association's 142,000 members are urged to highlight problem paths and lobby county councils to take action.

Beverley Penney, Director of Ramblers Wales, said: "It is a damning indictment of the low priority that most councils put on their footpath network that at a time when government is trying to encourage people to exercise more for health, this wonderful resource is being neglected.

"What is most disappointing is that councils in some of our most attractive areas are effectively telling tourists to stay away, which can only be bad for the economy of Wales.

"We hope that Footpaths Week 2004 will highlight the issues sufficiently to change this dangerous trend," she added.

But the Country Landowners Association argues this hardline policy can lead to less paths being kept open.

CLA National Access Adviser Caroline Bedell says: "What it comes down to is money. There isn't enough in the system to have every single right of way open so we're spreading money across a wider network."

"We would like to see more money spent on the routes that people want to use regularly rather than every route across the country."

Footpaths Week runs until 25 June.

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