By Sue Hayman

You may or may not be aware that PRoW have featured in every Parish Council Meeting for the last two years and probably in one way or another in many previous meetings.

The Community Review upheld the importance of our local rights of way, be they footpaths, bridleways or droves and some were keen to be part of a PRoW group to walk, report issues and maintain them. The review revealed that many do not know how to report an issue with a path; I didn’t when I started on this journey, so you are not alone. All PRoW are recorded on what is called a Definitive Map, each County has their own. If a path is recorded on the Definitive Map, it affords legal protections and as such County Councils have a statutory duty to maintain and keep those paths open and accessible to users. Landowners have a DUTY to keep pathways clear and can be prosecuted if they do not, but ultimately the Highways Department is responsible.

If you find a defect while out walking or riding on our public rights of way, you can report it at https://roam.somerset.gov.uk/roam/Map or scan the QR code below on your mobile phone and this will guide you to the definitive map. On the page you will find a + marked button where you may input the required information, pictures can be included but need to be attached with the initial information and cannot be added later. It’s amazing to see how many paths we have in our area but also so very disappointing to see how many have issues.

The information from the Community Review has encouraged the Parish Council to investigate the possibility of taking some of these responsibilities in house. We are currently liaising with the PRoW department to find out how this may look and work for the future. The PRoW department welcome this proactive approach especially as Somerset County is in a difficult financial situation at present. Despite Councils saying they have few resources it is their Statutory Duty to act on complaints raised. Each complaint is prioritised with ‘danger to life’ the most urgent; fortunately, we have none of those but that does mean that our complaints which are mainly medium to low in priority all fall further down the line, so are less likely to be resolved in a timely manner.

Ceri Rapsey, who coordinates the PRoW Volunteer Groups, has sent a list of active issues in our parish to Mark Palmer, the Chairman of the Parish Council, for consideration. This list has been prioritised into different categories. All need investigation, some need clearing, others need repair to footpath furniture. Some issues: like crops planted across the footpath, will have been resolved with harvesting. We can all help by carrying a pair of secateurs in our pockets when we walk or ride and Mark Palmer, having completed training as an authorised vegetation clearance volunteer, can use a county brush-cutter to maintain paths. The setting up of Local Council Networks also supports taking on more responsibilities in the hope that things may progress faster than they do at the moment. Liaising with the County Council is quite a slow and sometimes frustrating process, we hope by taking on some of the responsibilities we may improve access in a shorter time frame.

We do need you as parishioners to support us practically in this venture. It will involve reporting issues to the Parish Council as well as on the Definitive Map as you come across them. This is most important to help the Parish build a picture of our assets and prioritise particular paths for improvement. Perhaps those who have more time to spare will consider joining a working party, sharing expertise and skills. We need all hands to the pumps to make this a success, so please consider joining us to keep our many paths open and accessible. Please contact either sue.hayman@nerochevillages.org.uk or Emily.york@nerochevillages.co.uk