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Walkers urged to take more responsibility amid claims farm animals are being put at risk

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Monday, Mar 18th, 2019.

Walkers in rural parts of Wrexham have been urged to take more responsibility for their actions.

It follows claims that some people who use country footpaths are either leaving gates unlocked or letting their dogs off the lead, which is putting farm animals at risk.

The issue was raised by Ceiriog Valley councillor Trevor Bates in last week’s Executive Board meeting.

He also highlighted the recent outbreak of horse flu as a reason why people should be careful.

Cllr Bates (Ind) said there needed to be better public messaging to inform walkers of the Countryside Code, which sets out rules for visitors to rural areas.

During the debate on Wrexham’s Rights of Way Improvement Plan, he said: “We talk of rights of way, but what we have to remember is that with rights come responsibilities.

“I personally would have liked to see something in this document advising those who exercise those rights of way over other people’s land of their responsibilities too.

“Right now there are nasty cases of equine flu around the countryside which could easily be spread by walkers feeding or petting horses as they enjoy long walks through several properties.

“Leaving gates open or simply not closing them securely can lead to animals straying possibly onto roadways and causing accidents.
“Those taking dogs with them should be aware that they should be kept on a lead.”

He added: “We are now in the lambing season and every year farmers suffer losses because dogs are not adequately controlled.
“We sometimes hear of walkers being injured or even killed by cattle because no-one warned them of the danger of taking dogs into the field with cows and their young calves.”

The county borough currently has a combined total of 850 kilometres of footpaths, bridleways and byways of which 70 per cent were recently assessed as being easy to use.

At the meeting, executive board members approved proposals to improve the network and help people boost their health and wellbeing.

In response to the problems raised by Cllr Bates, Cllr David A Bithell, the council’s lead member for environment, said he would work with Natural Resources Wales to reinforce public messaging.

However, he also highlighted the authority’s limited budget to address public rights of way.

Cllr Bithell (Ind) said: “I think we do experience some of the issues you highlighted, especially living in rural communities.
“I just need to make sure that members’ aspirations don’t get carried away with themselves because the reality is our duty is a statutory duty and that is our priority.

“The officers have to work within their cash limited budget, so there will not be dramatic improvements in year one, it’s a ten-year plan.

“I take on board your comments and I’m sure Martin (Howarth, rights of way officer) and his team will develop that going forward.”
Members of the executive board unanimously supported the plan and it will now be considered by a meeting of the full council later this month.

By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).

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