HL Deb 17 December 2001 vol 630 cc15-6WA
Lord Greaves

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In which counties or parts of counties foot and mouth disease access restrictions still apply to footpaths and open countryside; and when they intend, or anticipate being able to lift them.[HL1633]

Lord Whitty

Currently 96 per cent of all footpaths in England are open to the public. Access restrictions still apply to those footpaths crossing farms that are subject to specific veterinary restrictions (mostly farms where livestock were diagnosed as having foot and mouth disease). The counties worst hit by the disease, including Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland, are most affected by this as they have the largest numbers of such farms.

With the improving disease situation, the veterinary risk assessment on the use of public footpaths has been revised, and concludes that it is now safe to re-open footpaths crossing restricted premises, apart from those passing through farmyards or buildings, once final cleansing and disinfection are complete, or, if final cleansing and disinfection are not being undertaken, then three months after completion of preliminary cleansing and disinfection.

The revised veterinary risk assessment was issued on 7 December, along with revised government guidance to local authorities on re-opening footpaths that encouraged them to work closely with local divisional veterinary managers to establish exactly which footpaths can be re-opened in the light of this development. Where footpaths pass through farmyards or buildings, local authorities should try to arrange temporary permissive diversions with the farmers concerned, especially where particularly popular local footpaths or national trails are concerned. However, if this does not prove possible, then those footpaths must remain closed until the veterinary restrictions are lifted.

It is likely that almost all footpaths in England will be re-opened in the early part of next year.