§ Alun Michael
A definition of "ease of use" was developed by the Countryside Agency in conjunction with our officials an the County Surveyors Society and the Audit Commission in order to provide an appropriate measure for performance indicators. This was refined last year when it became a Best Value performance indicator under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1999. The definition can be revised each year if necessary but there are advantages in avoiding change so that there is consistency in the data collection over a period of years.
Ease of use is measured according to the percentage of total length of footpaths and other rights of way which are easy to use by members of the public. This involves consideration of the extent to which a footpath or other right of way is signposted or waymarked; the extent of unlawful obstructions and other interference, including overhanging vegetation, to the public rights of passage; and consideration of the good repair of the surface and lawful barriers, such as stiles and gates, to a standard necessary to enable the public to use without undue inconvenience.
§ Alun Michael
The Countryside Agency's Rights of Way Condition Survey 2000 was conducted to establish how easy it is to find, follow and use public rights of way. Whilst it found there had been a substantial improvement in "easy to find" category, I am concerned that no survey region met the national target of 95 per cent. of their paths signposted. No formal assessment has been made of the reasons for this, although lack of funding and low priority are generally seen to be the cause. It is because the Government wants to be able to establish where the performance of local highways authorities could be improved, that we introduced a provision in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, section 71, that will enable the Secretary of State to require local highway authorities to publish reports on the performance of their functions relating to rights of way.