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County council closes all footpaths

Red and white tape and warning notices deter walkers from Hertfordshire's footpaths.  Fujifilm - path300.jpg (13737 bytes)

Red and white tape and warning notices deter walkers from Hertfordshire's footpaths.  Fujifilm

All footpaths, bridleways and common land in Hertfordshire have been closed to the public until further notice.

It comes as more cases of foot-and-mouth disease are reported around the country.

Hertfordshire says it made the decision after consultation with the Government, in order to help protect the county's farms.

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According to the authority's website, the prohibition will continue until further notice and is enforceable under Section 73 of the Animal Health Act 1981 by a fine of up to 5,000. The foot-and-mouth disease amendment order 2001 also came into force on March 2.

According to Ian McLachlan, of Hertfordshire's Trading Standards, closure notices have been distributed to farmers and the county council is putting up notices on other routes.

Quoted on the authority's website Herts Direct Mr McLachlan says they are asking everyone in Hertfordshire to behave responsibly and avoid countryside areas.

“We are relying on the co-operation and common sense of the public but we will prosecute if necessary. Hertfordshire has many livestock sites and a great deal of wildlife and the safest approach is to stay away from prohibited areas. It's difficult for people to know whether they are near animals or not, so if in doubt – stay away. “

The closure affects all public access on rights of way, other than tarmac routes, together with public access to common land.

The decision follows discussions with the National Farmers Union, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, individual farmers and landowners and rights of way representatives.

The authority says on its website that the order is a precautionary measure aimed at minimising the risk of foot-and-mouth disease in the county.

“Hertfordshire has a large wild deer population and like other wildlife, animals will roam over large areas including the urban fringe. People are urged to respect the closure even in areas that do not appear to be near or adjacent to farmland. Humans, dogs and even vehicles can carry infection and it is essential that outbreaks be contained,” the authority says.

All council officers and vehicles have been stopped from entering farm premises, except in an emergency.

The effect of the order is to prohibit public rights of access to all public footpaths and bridleways shown on the definitive map for Hertfordshire which are not metalled and large areas of common land.

The Ramblers' Association has urged its members to stay out of the countryside during the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. Europe has a special section with the latest news and background information on the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

The Royal Veterinary College in Hawkshead lane has appealed to walkers not to use footpaths across its land and adjoining land.

The Council for the Protection of Rural England warns: ‘Every effort needs to be made to eradicate foot and mouth disease and limit the impact of the outbreak on the farming community. The public should co-operate fully with necessary restrictions on access to the countryside which will help avoid spreading the disease.’

March 4, 2001

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