Official changes to footpath legislation have been put forward as a possible tool against the rising levels of livestock worrying incidents in the countryside.
Speaking in the House of Lords at an All Party Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare meeting on livestock worrying, which Farmers Guardian feeds into, CLA legal adviser Andrew Gillett called for a right to temporarily divert public rights of way in a field with livestock for up to 40 days at a time, to ‘deal with changing needs of modern agriculture and land use’.
Mr Gillett suggested an amendment to the Highways Act 1980 along the lines of the current section 135A which has yet to be commenced, where the power would only allow landowners to make diversions of no more than 14 days in any one calendar year and only after they had published written notice in a local newspaper.
He warned the restrictions were impractical and instead requested a more local, flexible approach.
Mr Gillett said: “With these proposals, farmers must notify the Highways Authority with hopefully something as simple as writing an email.
“Subject to further conditions, the temporary diversion can then run for 40 days in any 90-day period, unless an extension is approved by the Parish Council.
“We thought keeping it at a local level would be good as many Highways Authorities are so stretched for funding and manpower.”
Historically, landowners have had no right to have a diversion application processed, but Mr Gillett said calls from The Farming Regulation Task Force to the UK Government in 2011 echoed the need for a ‘pragmatic solution’ to allow a farmer to divert routes temporarily.
He added: “I tried to consider where walkers and ramblers would have worries and provide protection to keep concerns to a minimum.”