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Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) 4 consultation

In Summer 2023, we asked you about the proposals to improve County Durham's Public Rights of Way (PROW) for all users, ensuring they are fit for the 21st century.

What's the latest?

Thank you for taking part. We have read and considered the representations made and, where appropriate, suggestions have been incorporated into the final version of the ROWIP4. Titled 'Loving our Local Landscapes', the plan was agreed for adoption by our Cabinet in February 2024. You can view the report, which includes the final version of ROWIP4, at Cabinet agenda and minutes - 14 February 2024, agenda item 9.

Comments were generally positive and supportive of the strategic objectives and the policies in the ROWIP4. While, responses were generally positive, we also had a number of people question whether ROWIP4 would receive sufficient funding to deliver the four strategic objectives and the eight policies. All public representations and our response to them are detailed in the statement of consultation included within the Cabinet report, but the key themes are summarised at the bottom of this page.


Last year, we were working to develop our fourth Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP4). The Plan sets out how we will invest in our PROW network of footpaths, bridleways, and byways, by enhancing the existing green network for the benefit of those who use the PROW network: walkers, cyclists, horse riders, and some off-road motor vehicles.

County Durham has much to offer residents and visitors who want to discover the natural beauty of its dales, moors, and coastlines, as well as the nature reserves, parks and reclaimed land which surround our towns and villages. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, working habits and recreational time have changed, with people spending more time in their local green spaces, enjoying the benefits in their mental and physical health.

Successes from the current plan (ROWIP3) include partnership working on:

  • the Northern Saints Trails, The Pennine Way, England Coast Path, Brightwater, and The Heritage Way
  • protecting and developing new PROW as part of new land or housing developments
  • replacing hundreds of stiles with kissing gates to make paths more accessible

The strategy

ROWIP4 is the strategic vision for the future PROW network, and it will help us develop our wider goals for the county and its people.

The Plan focuses on four strategic objectives and eight policies. We received your views on these policies which will help us deliver on our goals over the next 10 years to 2033.

Your views helped us ensure we had the correct strategic objectives and policies and finalise a detailed investment programme, now the ten year ROWIP strategy and three year delivery plan have been agreed.

Have your say

The consultation closed on Wednesday 26 July 2023. 

Consultation - summary of key themes

  • there were many site specific representations on local PROW from residents and town and parish councils
  • the four strategic objectives had overwhelming support
  • the importance of providing a coherent bridleway network was emphasised
  • there was significant support for the digitisation of routes and better online information
  • the need to retain physical signs, way markers, maps, leaflets and noticeboards to avoid digital exclusion
  • the need for us to share information on walking routes with third party online route-finding applications
  • the need to increase parking provision, including for horse boxes, at the start and end of popular routes and bridleways
  • support for the '10 in 10' accessible routes policy and the need to ensure accessible gates within the routes
  • the diversion of footpaths out of farmyards was highlighted on numerous occasions as an area that we need to focus on
  • many residents emphasised the need for landowners to play their part in maintaining access to PROW
  • there were 35 changes to ROWIP4 as a response to the public consultation, many were tweaks to improve the wording and clarity of the policies and the substantive changes to ROWIP4 are:
    • the executive summary has been amended to reflect the importance of the Climate Emergency Response Plan (CERP) and how ROWIP4 can contribute towards meeting net zero targets
    • in policy one, criteria D, and elsewhere in the document, we have included the words 'rural and urban' to reflect that PROW can occur in both environments
    • in policy one, criteria F, and in the title of policy six, we have added reference to the 'access legislation' which sets out the legal responsibilities of landowners to maintain public access to PROW
    • text has been added that we need dedicated resource in our PROW team to diverting footpaths
    • in the supporting text to policy one we have added information about providing suitable parking for horse riders near bridleways
    • in policy three - making our network accessible - '10 in 10' has been amended to include the words 'at least' so that ten accessible routes in ten years is a minimum not a maximum
    • extra text relating to the value of PROW for the green economy has been added to the supporting text of policy five
    • a glossary of terms has been added at the end of the document
    • the whole document has been updated as it is no longer a consultation version but is now the final version so consultation questions have been removed etc
    • the time horizon of ROWIP4 has been amended to 2024 to 2034 to reflect the adoption date of February 2024

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