Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ninth Report

9  Long-term maintenance

69.  The £50 million estimate will cover the maintenance costs during the implementation period of the proposals (years 1-10).[113] The exact details of who will be responsible for maintenance from year 11 onwards—including the funding of that maintenance—have not yet been determined, and is not set out in the draft Bill. It is likely that access authorities will be primarily responsible, although Defra says Natural England will contribute from year 11 onwards on "a basis yet to be agreed".[114]

70.  Several witnesses expressed concerns about the long-term maintenance of the route. Devon County Council expressed concern that the proposals could be an "additional burden" on local authorities, because both the route and spreading room would require continual maintenance, such as seasonal vegetation cutting, and inspection. It wanted the issue of maintenance to be clarified early. Cumbria County Council also wanted a "clear, unequivocal answer early on" about maintenance.[115]

71.  Other witnesses believed it was unnecessary at this stage to clarify responsibility for maintenance from year 11 onwards. The Ramblers' Association acknowledged long-term maintenance was a "grey area" but it did not believe clarification was a prerequisite for the legislation. Instead, discussions could be held "early on in that ten-year period".[116] The Minister said he recognised the concerns expressed by local authorities about long-term maintenance. He said the Government had a responsibility to ensure local authorities would be "resourced" to carry out their new functions, although he did not give any answers about when decisions concerning long-term maintenance would be made.[117]

72.  The Government should clarify responsibility for, and the estimated costs involved in providing, long-term maintenance before the Bill is introduced. If assurances on this cannot be given ahead of the introduction of the Bill then the Government should not proceed with the measure until this is clarified.

113   Ev 25 (DMB 56e) [Natural England]; Q 475 [Minister]. Back

114   Ev 110 [Defra], para 7. Also Q 475 [Minister]. Back

115   Qq 349-351 Back

116   Qq 303, 300 Back

117   Q 475 Back

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