A farmer has criticised the council’s delay in issuing a temporary footpath closure order after losing more than eight hectares of standing barley to arson.
Peter Till of Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire, said he had contacted Staffordshire County Council last week (July 16) to request the temporary closure to keep walkers off what he called his ‘tinder-dry’ fields, but was instead met with the council’s answering machine.
Only a few hours later, he noticed the crop had been set alight.
Mr Till said: “This field is the one which the footpath crosses into and it had to be attended by five fire tenders and numerous fire personnel – and I even had five tractors on the scene with discs, ploughs and a water bowser in order to make a fire barrier to try to stem the spread.
“Around 20 acres have been lost, plus damage where vehicles accessed the fire.
“The chief officer agreed it was a deliberate act and it was the 12th one they had attended recently.”
The following day, Mr Till managed to get hold of the council’s footpaths team but was told it would cost £418 to action a footpath closure for 21 days.
He added: “Talk about rubbing salt into the wound. It has made me very angry.”
A Staffordshire Fire and Rescue spokesman said they believed the incident was deliberate.
Helen Fisher, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for highways and transport, said the public rights of way team responded to Mr Till ’as quickly as possible to explain the application process for a temporary closure’.
She added: “The county council, police and fire service have all issued appeals in recent weeks for people to take great care in the countryside during this extended dry spell and they have, in general, been very well observed in Staffordshire.
“I am upset to hear of an arson attack on crops and I hope the police find those responsible.”
The incident came as the Met Office confirmed the UK had seen the driest weather in 57 years.