Connectedness of the Network
Bedfordshire's ROWIP is an 'Outdoor Access Improvement Plan'. In it the authority explains:
We decided to produce an "Outdoor Access Improvement Plan" (OAIP) incorporating the Rights of Way Improvement Plan. Why? Because there are many other routes and sites in public use for informal outdoor access but not legally recorded as definitive public rights of way. Government guidance recognises this, so our Plan considers the whole network of off-road routes, public open spaces and sites, including the potential new 'Open Access' land, as well as existing rights of way and highways. Outdoor access is about people getting outside to use those open spaces and rights of way which allow public access for both their recreational and other everyday uses. It is an important part of everyday life and makes an essential contribution to the quality of life for all.
City of York Council ROWIP extract
6.7 Wider Network of Access
There are many areas of land and paths, to which the public have access, that are not recorded in any formal manner and which only a few people are aware of as they are not promoted in any way. This wider network of access was researched with the support of the Countryside Agency as part of the ROWIP demonstration project.
York has a lot of access currently or potentially available to the public, which is not formally recorded, and of which many people are unaware. Research has shown this could be as much as 75km of paths and 1188ha of open land.
This research identified a total of 75km of linear access (198 paths) and 1188ha of open land, clearly this is of substantial benefit to the people of York. Add these extra routes to those identified through the lost ways research (a further 68km, some of which may be duplicated) and the rights of way network has the possibility of expanding by 60%.
The areas of open land identified as part of the wider network of access include the strays (41%), essential green areas within the urban centre of the city, Woodland Trust sites, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust sites, English Nature sites, and Forestry Enterprise sites (26%). All of these have permitted access at present, but are not mapped and therefore not widely known about.
This wider network of access is generally not integrated with the rights of way network due to being managed by a range of public and private bodies. This access is of high actual, or potential, public value as it gives access to green areas within the urban setting, provides off road routes between communities, and access to attractive landscape and wildlife areas.
The formal and informal network of paths and open areas are not well linked together, better communication with partnership organisations could improve this.
As with the formal path network the key issue for wider network of access is information, each area is managed separately with differing standards with regards to signposting and promotion of the area. This leads to a lack of awareness of the existence of the site, and then when on site, a lack of clarity over where to go and what there is to do. This can be discouraging for many users. In addition, many of these sites make provision for those with mobility and visual impairment.
In order to effectively link the wider network of access with the public rights of way network, there needs to be an effective mapping system which can record all access information, including location of public rights of way, open access land and the wider network of access.