The Gwynedd Challenge

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This bit! (Wikipedia pic)

Nope, it’s not a new long distance event in North Wales, it’s how Gwynedd Council (that covers places like Snowdon, Betws y Coed and Coed y Brenin and most of the Dyfi Forest) is putting its need to drop its spending from £235M to £214M by 2017, while its expected costs rise from £235M to an estimated £264M.

 

Dilwyn Williams, Gwynedd council chief executive
Never lick your lips in a public announcement video. Dilwyn Williams, Gwynedd Council’s Chief Executive lays it out in the video below

So much, so dull local council news. All local councils are having to do that and many (if not all) of them are doing a ‘Hey, now you try and balance our books for us’ campaign.

However, if you look at some of the proposals, along with the area that the council covers, then things selfishly start getting concerning for mountain bikers. Firstly, you might be surprised that trail access and maintenance comes under ‘Environment’ and not ‘Tourism’. And, given the recent enthusiasm about a possible shift in attitude of the central Welsh government regarding open trail access, these proposed cuts might come as a shock.

There are several proposals that need a look, specifically:

Env 1 – This would cut all maintenance of all the Council’s recreational routes, mostly on old railway lines.

Env 13 – This is the budget for the maintenance of rights of way. But as well as the seasonal mowing and cutting back of overgrown trails, it also has the mechanism for complaints about blocked (naturally, or deliberately) rights of way. So, if the full 40% cut goes through and the farmers and landowners lock the gates to trails and let sunken lanes grow over, there’d be no one to complain to, or to enforce the re-opening of the right of way. Only Snowdon and NRW (formerly the Forestry Commission in Wales) would likely be maintained due to the number of visitors. Although, apparently 49% of visitors to the area come to walk on the beaches. There’s no mention of mountain biking.

There’s also the issue of Barmouth Bridge, which is part of the very popular Mawddach Trail. There’s a proposal to cut funding for that, which would effectively close the bridge and sever the trail.

And here’s Dilwyn Williams, Gwynedd Council’s Chief Executive to explain it all:


Can see the video? Click here to view it.

The page on the Council’s website is here:
https://www.gwynedd.gov.uk/en/Council/Have-your-say/Gwynedd-Challenge.aspx

Now, we know that mountain bikers as a group tend to be pretty apathetic about this kind of stuff, but one Welsh Rights of Way Officer has this to say: “Riders need to wise up because evidence shows the public can’t be arsed to respond leaving the council free to do what it wants. Most popular responses are from those losing libraries schools or social care who usually don’t use rights of ways much and so tend to support those cuts in favour of saving non-statutory cultural stuff while walkers horse riders and cyclists are out there getting on with it blind to the oncoming access Armageddon.”

So, what are you waiting for? We’ve already shown that enough mountain bikers care about potentially improved access to the Welsh countryside, so don’t let it be closed by the time we get there…

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Comments (12)

    Someone point them towards the poll that’s just to the right of this. 😉

    Cant say that I want my council tax etc spent on seasonal mowing and cutting back of overgrown trails or 30k to keep a bridge open. A trail has to be viable not high maint. Look at the wiki for the bridge its taken them 2 years to decide nothing.

    I wish Derbyshire Country Council would throttle back on the trails maintenance budget
    As for councils doing what they want unless riders wise up and get arsed to say something, again am refer you to DCC and Rushup-gate

    Can I presume Pawsy you’ve never ridden the Lon Eifiion before distributing your twopence worth on the value of maintaining these routes. Maybe you should try them soon they are well used. I use them a lot riding from Caernarfon up to Snowdon and its one of many great routes. It’s common to see parents teaching kids to ride and families out enjoying the exercise. The worse overgrowth occurs where the old tracks were cut up to facilitate road building and no matter how much use they get the verdant undergrowth needs cutting back the strong winds off the sea often bring down trees which if not cleared will stop use. Nor d you know much about the bridge, it’s rebuild and place in the local community in fact you sound a bit like the Ian Duncan Smith of mountain biking mate you need go find your smile to replace that sneer.

    Its a valid view. Given on a forum without resort to sneers or slagging people views. I help maintain my trails. Maybe instead of public money those users and local community would join together to keep the trails they use open.

    Given the choice between libraries or social care etc spending on prow must be low down on any LA spending list.

    There is the matter of liability when doing any works so “community” trail maintenance has to be done by stealth. Clubs can’t organize work groups or arrange for heavy equipment and materials to be brought onsite because it attracts too much attention. So we are just limited to what individuals can achieve going out on winter nights with a folding spade and a saw.

    Just on the last comment: “Clubs can’t organize work groups or heavy equipment and materials to be brought onsite because it attracts too much attention.” – There is no such thing as “can’t” and I know of three clubs who’ve done exactly what you say “can’t” be done – they just have to be organized! And whether or not it is a club, a community or individual (think B&B, cafe or shop owners) all of which will benefit from maintaining the trails. Again I’ve stayed with two guides in France and Spain who’ve integrated into the communities and have built and maintained their own trails to attract business.

    As for the video –
    1. £50 million is visually misrepresented in the graph, it looks like they need double what they are getting, making the problem look larger than it is and therefore harder to solve than it is.
    2. Saving efficiencies “being delivered” and “yet to be delivered” – isn’t that the same thing? Sounds like the spin I put on things at work!
    3. Why would you target a further £8 million savings, surely you’d look at all areas to see where efficiencies can be made?
    I’m sure there’s more than a few contracts that could be negotiated lower for the work OR how about bringing it in house and creating new albeit minimum wage jobs for the unemployed – after all unemployment in that area is 6.7 (which is above average for Wales). I’m sure most of the infrastructure must be there after all Dilwyn will be getting paid and surely there’s some bonus or subsidy for creating more jobs?
    4. Like the author of the article writes tongue in cheek: ‘Hey, now you try and balance our books for us’ campaign.” Whilst it is good that they are being transparent and almost putting it to the vote, they are essentially taking the responsibility away from themselves for what the cuts are after they made the decision to make the cuts. Yes they have looked at efficiency savings as previously mentioned, but what are they and are they exhaustive?

    That’s interesting. Were the landowners and/or authorities involved and willing? That could be the difference.

    Yeah, a lot of the way marked trails in Swinley forest were built by a local club that worked with the Crown estate. This was before Back on track got paid to put more in and link it all up. Now the warranty period is over on the work, TrailTeam Swinley has formed and does get some funding from the landowner, but rely on volunteers to help out as well (similar to how Cannock chase is now maintained).

    I’ve asked a mate about another place, which he’d been involved in putting in a 6km loop just off the M4. They’d worked with the council on putting that in next to a leisure center.

    And I’d read on Singletrack about how a local club had built a lot of one of the trails in the South of Wales near a trail centre (although at the time of reading it, some of the larger features were having to be removed due to liability).

    As a Gwynedd resident I already take a saw, billhook and axe out with me on some walks and rides. So many of the footpaths and bridleways round where I live (just north of Bala and outside the Snowdonia National Park) are very overgrown and very seldom used. I quite like this in many ways as I hardly ever meet anyone on the trails, but it does make things a bit of a slog.

    I have had quite a lot of contact with the local rights of way officer and she has been very helpful and has even got a few paths cleared over the past couple of years. She and her colleagues are already very stretched though. All I can see from the proposed cuts is that a minority of farmers and landowners will take the opportunity to fence off inconvenient rights of way, safe in the knowledge that there are no resources to challenge their actions.

    Fence off a right of way round here and it’s lost within a year, such is the rate of vegetation growth. Once lost I can’t see that there’ll suddenly be a pot of money at some point in the future to reclaim them. What I can see is that I, and a few people I ride with, will start to take cable and bolt cutters with them and take matters into our own hands when we find things fenced off.

    To my mind, rights of way have been earned over generations and are a mark of civilisation. A few years of cutbacks will see them very likely lost forever unless a few local people and groups can take on the responsibilities of keeping things open.

    Buzz, we work with FC. They even stump up diggers and materials. We have to have insurance. There are loads of clubs etc carrying out trail building with the land owners consent and assistance. We also are a charity and get donations from event organisers etc. As a few have mentioned above there are other more local based solutions than letting the council chuck money at the problem. I’d suggest these solutions are far better value and sustainable

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