Dear Mary,

.. I have copied the whole of my correpondence with Devon about footpaths. The Devon officers have treated me - and my neighbours - with rude carelessness but after all the effort I have wrung from them the offer of a length of electric fencing to separate the footpath from my field. The decisions are apparently being made by the officers, acting under delegated powers. They say that if they don't open all the footpaths, government will force them to open them all - and they will soon do so anyway!

I have done an interview with Richard Howe of Radio Devon - to go out on 'Good Morning Devon' on Monday. .. Best wishes,

Lawrence


Subj: Re-opening of Public Rights of Way
Date: 18/06/01
To: prow@devon.gov.uk
CC: LGear@devon.gov.uk (Councillor Lyn Gear)

Edward Chorlton
County Environment Director
Lucombe House
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter
Devon
EX2 4QW

Your Ref: Foot & Mouth

Dear Sir,

Re-opening of Public Rights of Way
We view your proposed opening of all the public rights of way in our area with the greatest concern. We have been prevented by Government from immunising our animals by vaccinating them; and obliged to leave them unprotected and susceptible to foot and mouth disease. At the same time, the Ministry of Agriculture, now DEFRA, has shown an apparent intent to slaughter farm animals, above all sheep, at the least opportunity.

We depend on our milking sheep for our main enterprise: making one of the only Organic ewes' milk cheeses in the whole of the UK (we believe that there were about three others before the start of the foot and mouth outbreak. Not all of these work exclusively with their own production of milk). You will appreciate that to breed a milking flock and achieve Organic accreditation has taken considerable time and effort: and the destruction of our flock would close us down for about two years. We would probably not recover.

Our cheeses have achieved success in the British Cheese Awards and the Organic Food Awards and you may have heard them praised in a recent BBC Radio 4 'Food Programme'. We regard them as one of the speciality foods that makes Devon an interesting place in which to live and an interesting place for tourists to visit.

Since the announcement of the first cases of foot and mouth disease, we have implemented the tightest biosecurity on our farm. Since I deal with the animals, milking the sheep daily, I have hardly left the farm since the first cases of the disease were reported; and no visitors have been allowed near our animals. We have noted that the Government Chief Vet has recently reiterated his exhortation to farmers not to relax their biosecurity measures - particularly in light of the recent, new and virulent outbreaks here in Devon.

Opening the rights of way through our farm and through our neighbours' farms (particularly Higher Campscott, Shaftesborough, Lower Campscott and even Whitestone Farm,) would directly threaten our flock. If an outbreak of disease were to occur on our farm, our animals would be lost and our neighbours' would be killed.

If an outbreak were to be detected on any of our neighbours' ('contiguous') farms, DEFRA would immediately seek to kill our sheep. They allow no appeal for sheep.

With the exception of the old railway footpath, all the footpaths crossing these farms pass through fields in which susceptible animals are kept: and any member of the public walking along them would be in close contact with these animals.

On our own farm, we are currently more densely stocked than we would normally be, as a result of movement restrictions and lack of normal abattoir facilities. We are thus obliged to keep our animals in the fields through which the footpaths pass.

We are also obliged to keep our sheep in the fields which are in easy walking distance of the milking parlour. These are the fields affected by the footpaths.

Since our sheep are handled so regularly, they are very tame and likely to come into contact with whomsoever passes through the fields. In our experience, members of the public using these footpaths, frequently mistake their way, despite the clear waymarker signs, and stray across our fields apparently at random. They also leave gates open, allowing animals to stray: another serious threat to biosecurity.

We normally welcome visitors and invite them to watch the sheep being milked - or talk to them about the farm and the locality. But in current circumstances, we cannot risk these dangerous intrusions.

We discount statements to the effect that no outbreak of the disease has been attributed to a walker. Since we ourselves often do not know when a walker is passing through the farm on one of the footpaths, it would be inconceivable that a walker who had spread the disease would ever be traced. On the other hand it would be impossible to expect walkers to disinfect themselves on entering and leaving each farm - or to know whether or not they might be carrying infection. They might, for example have 'rescued' or handled an apparently injured hedgehog by the roadside (hedgehogs are susceptible to foot and mouth disease)...or picked up some infected mud on their shoes or clothes.

There are paths which are fenced off from the adjacent fields which might be opened without significant risk: like the old railway path, and perhaps the Bridle Path which crosses it. These tend in any case to be more popular (the old railway path has a car park which serves it). The less well known paths like those crossing our farm, which cross fields containing livestock are much less used: and the dangers of opening them far outweigh any public benefit.

As we have already mentioned, we normally welcome visitors: but in present circumstances we regard uncontrolled access as a very great danger to our farm. We assure you that were these paths to be re-opened, we would use all means at our disposal to prevent their use and to make their users feel unwelcome.

Finally, we must express our strongest objection to the shortness of the notice we have been given in this very serious matter: and the inadequate time we have been given to respond. The letter informing us of the proposal to re-open the paths, dated 14th June 2001 was posted to us second class: and we were given only until 19th June to respond: effectively one working day, if we were lucky with the post.

The Devon information website was closed over the weekend. This is a matter of the greatest importance to us - and we resent deeply that you should apparently care so little about consulting us.

Yours faithfully,

Lawrence and Karen Wright
Middle Campscott Farm
Ilfracombe
Devon


Devon County Council

Application for Exemption from Opening

Public Footpath or Bridleway

NB THIS FORM MUST BE RETURNED BY TUESDAY, 19 JUNE 2001

Full Name: WRIGHT, Lawrence Garnham..
Postal Address: Middle Campscott Farm, Lee, Ilfracombe, Devon.. ..
Post Code: EX34 8LS..
CP Holding Number: 10/054/0145
Telephone: 01271 864 621.. Fax: 01271 864 621.. E-mail: mcampscott@aol.com.....
Nature of Farm Business (please tick); Pigs yes Dairy yes Beef yes Sheep yes
Other (please describe) dairy sheep specialist cheesemaking on farm
Location of paths (PLEASE INCLUDE PATH NUMBERS IF KNOWN): FP No 16 (Mortehoe), FP 24 & 34 (Ilfracombe)
ParishMortehoe and Ilfracombe.. path starts at . ends at
Path No. path starts at . ends at
Path No.
Is your premises currently under any of the following restrictions (please tick and supply date); Form A date. Form C date. Form D date.WITHIN DEVON INFECTED AREA
Does the path run through a yard used for holding or accommodating livestock?
Yes
Give details of the yard and its use: All fields involved are used for holding and accommodating livestock, particularly our dairy sheep which must be held within walking distance of the milking parlour in the farm establishment. Use of any of the footpaths would bring persons who may be carriers of FMDV unsupervised and uncontrolled into close contact with our susceptible livestock and destroy or very careful biosecurity measures. We are specifically advised by the Chief Veterinary Officer to continue to maintain the highest biosecurity, particularly in view of the current outbreak at Clayhanger and continuing cases elsewhere in Devon. Opening these paths and those across our neighbours' fields would undermine all our careful efforts. . .
Is temporary diversion of the route practicable? No
Details of suggested diversion:. 
6. Signature: L Garnham Wright..
Date: 18/6/01
On behalf of: Middle Campscott Farm
For Office Use Only
Officer Recommendation: 


Subj: Re-opening of Public Rights of Way
Date: 19/06/01
To: prow@devon.gov.uk
CC: LGear@devon.gov.uk (Councillor Lyn Gear)
Edward Chorlton
County Environment Director
Lucombe House
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter
Devon
EX2 4QW
Your Ref: Foot & Mouth
Dear Sir,

Re-opening of Public Rights of Way

Further to my e-mail of 18/6/01, your letter dated 14 June 2001 refers to MAFF veterinary guidance with regard to applications for exemption.

I reproduce below, the guidance issued by MAFF, now DEFRA on their Foot and Mouth Disease information website. This is the advice current today on the website and is reproduced in the DEFRA Information Sheet No. 8 which I received by post this morning. I have highlighted passages which are particularly relevant. You will see that uncontrolled access to paths which cross open fields accommodating susceptible livestock by persons unaware of the precautions advised to prevent the spreading of the disease and unlikely to take such precautions, is completely incompatible with the Veterinary Guidance which is issued by the British Cattle Veterinary Association, Sheep Veterinary Society, National Sheep Association, National Farmers Union and MAFF/DEFRA.

I should be grateful if you would reconsider your proposal to re-open rights of way generally in the area you indicate, which is within the Devon Infected Area: and suggest that you restrict any re-opening to those paths which do not conduct the public into fields where they may come into contact with susceptible animals.

I reiterate my anger at the lack of notice given to us with regard to this proposal.

Yours faithfully,

Lawrence Wright Middle Campscott Farm

Foot and mouth disease


FMD Home>Disease Control>

Biosecurity - advice for cattle and sheep farmers Summary of advice Foot and mouth disease can be spread by:

Direct contact with an infected animal
Airborne spread from infected animal
Indirectly by infected material carried on persons, clothing, vehicles, equipment, dogs (including sheepdogs), scavenging animals and vermin.
Cattle
In cattle, foot and mouth disease is usually readily identifiable. Sheep do not always show obvious clinical signs of disease therefore may present a major risk to cattle as you may not be aware that they are infected.
Housed cattle are at reduced risk and should, if possible, remain housed if there is any risk that, after turn-out, they could contact animals of unknown disease status.
If you still have to turn cattle out the risk of contracting disease can be reduced;
Try to keep cattle at least one empty field distant from any other stock. It is most important there cannot be close or direct contact between groups.
You should discuss with your neighbour about the use of boundary or adjoining fields and check that fences are secure.
Do not put cattle on pastures that have been grazed by sheep since mid February.
Keep inspecting your stock for signs of disease. Discuss with your own vet if you have any concerns or contact MAFF if you suspect foot and mouth.
Hefted sheep
Make every effort to keep the animals where they are without their welfare suffering.
You can use set-aside if there is insufficient pastures. Your Regional Service Centre can advise on this.
Only move sheep between hills and lowlands as a last resort.
Arrangements may have to be made as below.
Visiting outlying livestock Movement controls mean that stock are still at outlying locations away from the main farm. Every time you visit such stock there is a real risk you may spread disease on yourself, your clothing, footwear, vehicles and equipment or other animals such as sheep dogs.
Keep the number of these visits to an absolute minimum and wherever possible try to make alternative plans for specific people, who do not have contact with other livestock, to care for your animals.
If you have to travel between sites treat each as a separate, secure unit and insist on everyone following strict rules on cleaning and disinfection of vehicles, clothing and equipment on leaving and arrival.
Wherever possible only use equipment, boots and protective clothing that remains at each site.
These notes have been produced by British Cattle Veterinary Association, Sheep Veterinary Society, National Sheep Association, National Farmers Union and MAFF.


Date: 24/06/01
To: prow@devon.gov.uk
CC: LGear@devon.gov.uk
Edward Chorlton
County Environment Director
Lucombe House
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter
Devon
EX2 4QW

Your ref: CED F(49) ref 68

Dear Mr Chorley,

Re-opening of Public Rights of Way

I confirm my telephone conversation of 19th June with your Mr Johnson, in which he told me that Mortehoe footpath 16 would be kept closed; but it was proposed that Ilfracombe footpaths 24 and 34 would be opened. I maintained my objection to the opening of the latter paths and to the blanket reopening of similar paths which pass through open fields where susceptible animals are grazing. I am surprised that you made no mention of this in your letter of 20th June nor do you make any response to the points which I made in my email of 18th June; nor do you acknowledge my application to keep footpaths closed.

You seem to have missed the essential points that I am making. The 'apparently conflicting advice' issued by DEFRA is the least of my concerns: my main concern is the protection of our local community and economy, now and for the future. I do not understand the observation with which you close your letter, about trying to strike a fair balance in the interests of the residents of Devon as a whole. The points that I am making are not for the benefit of a sectional interest, but in the interest of the community as a whole. We, like most other local residents have chosen to live here because of the rich countryside which depends on a pattern of small family farms and small local businesses. We enjoy walking in the countryside. Our farm earns a major part of its income by selling our specialist local cheese to visitors. Most of our farming neighbours have 'diversified' into rural business activities which depend on farming - like 'bed and breakfast', selling cream teas, providing a Caravan Club 'approved location', etc. We share the same interests as the shopkeepers, hoteliers and publicans residents and holiday visitors in Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, not to mention Mortehoe and Lee. We ourselves are desperate to have the restrictions imposed on us lifted. Our income for the last quarter was 25% of our income in the same quarter last year. In May we took £64.00. We want to see the countryside reopened: but if foot and mouth disease and more importantly the draconian action with which our misguided government deals with it were to be introduced into our locality, it would be a major disaster for everyone, residents, businesses of all kinds (not only farming) and visitors. To risk this by allowing free, unregulated access to minor paths which are little used and largely irrelevant to the enjoyment of the majority of the summer visitors seems entirely wrongheaded.

I invite you to take note of the significance of the recent case of foot and mouth disease at Bondleigh. According to DEFRA advice, active disease was found in a flock of sheep which were exhibiting no symptoms. The flock was being inspected regularly by DEFRA vets who had detected no symptoms - but laboratory tests showed active and infectious disease. DEFRA is currently engaged in trying to kill the sheep on the neighbouring farms. At least two of these farms have been killed out; another is attempting to protect its sheep. An essential argument will be that these sheep have been segregated from the infected flock by careful biosecurity measures. If walkers had been passing from flock to flock along a connecting path, this argument would be undermined - and more importantly, the disease might have been passed between the flocks.

Bondleigh is close enough to us for concern: but there are likely to be other infected but undiagnosed flocks throughout the 'Infected area' (in which Mortehoe and Ilfracombe are included). Any of the local flocks could currently be concealing infection like the one at Bondleigh - or could be infected unknowingly by their keepers or, if the footpaths are opened indiscriminately, by a walker with dirty boots. It is practically impossible to walk through a field of sheep without treading in fresh dung. If the paths which run from farm to farm through open fields are opened, a single walker could spread the concealled infection from farm to farm. For example, a walker could tramp through the sheep on Higher Campscott, through my sheep, through the cattle on Lower Campscott and then through the large herd of dairy cattle on Whitestone farm. If any of the sheep were to be carrying concealed infection like those at Bondleigh, we could face an outbreak of disease like that which occurred at Clayhanger. The whole community, including the tourist businesses in Ilfracombe and Woolacombe would be devastated.

I suggest that a more prudent course of action would be to identify paths that do not pass through open fields, or that can be diverted or temporarily fenced where they pass through small parts of open fields. These could be reopened without such dire risk. Possible examples locally are the Old Railway, the bridle path which runs past the Mullacott Veterinary Hospital and perhaps with some modification, the beautiful woodland path which runs down the Borough valley. There may also be farmers who can agree to keep stock out of fields where important paths cross them. You could implement a strategic policy of opening paths where the benefit is high and the risk avoidable; but to open indiscriminately the little used minor paths which run from farm to farm through open fields seems to introduce a risk truly disproportionate to the benefits. To invite the permanent destruction of businesses like ours (I refer you to my description in my email of 18/6/01) and those of our neighbours by such an unnecessary action would seem insane.

I have read the guidelines which you enclosed with your letter of 20th June. I take note that they are guidelines and recommendations, not mandatory instructions and that they were issued on 23rd May. At that time, the incidence of cases in Devon seemed to be dwindling. Since then, we have had, among others, the cluster of cases in the previously unaffected area around Clayhanger; and the worrying case at Bondleigh. The Secretary of State at the new Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret Beckett, made a statement to the House of Commons on 21 June, in which she emphasised the vital importance of maintaining high standards of biosecurity on and around farms.

The DEFRA website reports that "Setting out the Government's continuing response to the Foot and Mouth outbreak to the new House of Commons, she advised that epidemiological evidence suggests cases will continue to occur for some time yet. To bring the disease to an end as quickly as possible, it remains hugely important that no one relaxes their guard."

She is reported as stating that "As part of our strategy for wider rural recovery we want to see footpaths and other rights of way re-opened" but qualifying this by "wherever it is safe to do so."

In paragraph 20 of the report of the statement posted on the DEFRA FMD website, she indicates that the continued closure of selected paths is expected and that closures of this sort may be made outside the 3 km zones around infected premises - and that blanket closures may also be made:

"We would keep in place local authority powers to close paths selectively where necessary - mainly of course within 3 km of infected premises - and we will listen to representations from local authorities and others who may wish to retain blanket closures in particular areas affected by disease."

I implore you to exercise the powers which the Secretary of State offers when you decide which paths are to be reopened - and to act with prudence, opening only paths which have been selected as risk free.

I maintain my objections to the shortness of notice and short time allowed for objections. There was no guarantee that a letter sent by second class post on 14th June would have arrived by 19th June and the Devon website was closed over the weekend of 16th and 17th June. Why was it necessary to act so precipitately in a matter which is not of overriding urgency? It would seem more important to consult those intimately affected by the opening of these rights of way than the institutions, particularly DEFRA and the NFU, which have shown no regard whatsoever for the safeguarding of our rural community and are responsible for the closure of the countryside and the destruction of so many of our farms.

Yours sincerely,

Lawrence Wright
Middle Campscott Farm
Ilfracombe


Subj: Re-opening of Public Rights of Way
Date: 26/06/01
To: prow@devon.gov.uk
CC: LGear@devon.gov.uk (Councillor Lyn Gear)

Edward Chorlton
County Environment Director
Lucombe House
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter
Devon
EX2 4QW

Your ref: CED F(49) ref 68

Dear Mr Chorley,

Re-opening of Public Rights of Way

Further to my e-mail of 24/6/01, I draw your attention to a report on BBC Wales yesterday.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/wales/newsid_1407000/1407681.stm

Following is a quotation from the report:

"The latest case was detected at Modrydd Farm in Libanus, near Brecon, on Saturday.

Walkers have been returning to the countryside

A total of 600 hundred sheep, 600 lambs and 80 cattle were immediately slaughtered.

Officials have also used powers to carry out the slaughter of 2,000 sheep, 2,000 lambs and 159 cattle on nearby farms.

The confirmed case at Libanus has dealt a serious blow to the tourism and farming industries.

Tourism businesses in the Brecon Beacons had hoped for a lift in late bookings and the latest incident comes just a week after the re-opening of the popular Pen-y-Fan peak.

Farmers had been warning the re-opening of footpaths could be premature, amid news of fresh cases in other parts of the UK.

The paths have been closed since February

Many tourism businesses are now struggling to survive, after a dire spring season of restrictions and cancellations.

Roger Williams, the MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, said the Welsh Assembly and Treasury must act now for tourist attractions to survive through the winter.

Deputy First Minister Mike German said the news was a "hammer blow" for the region.
QUOTATION ENDS

Please note that I am not 'demanding' a continued blanket closure. I am recommending prudence in a selective and managed opening of the rights of way. I do not believe that many of the tourists who are to benefit from the re-opening would notice the loss of the minor paths and those that do are likely to sympathise and co-operate. And nothing need prevent local residents, bed and breakfast guests, etc. coming to private local agreements based on an understanding of biosecurity measures.

Yours sincerely,

Lawrence Wright
Middle Campscott Farm
Ilfracombe


Mr L Wright

Your ref:Date:26 June 2001Phone: Enquiries:Exeter 01392 382000My ref:CED F(49) ref 68Please ask for:Mr D AndrewDirect line: Exeter 01392 382175Fax: 01392 382135

Dear Mr Wright,

Re-opening of Public Rights of Way
Mortehoe Footpath 16, Ilfracombe Footpath 24 & 34

Further to your e-mails regarding the above, you are aware from conversation with Council Officers that the decision has been made for Morthoe Footpath 16 to remain closed at the present time and Ilfracombe Footpaths 24 and 34 to reopen this Saturday, 30 June. The formal decision letter will be issued this week, at the same time as those to other landowners who have applied for an exemption.

As stated in my previous correspondence we are working to the latest DEFRA Guidelines, which are being applied across the County and these lead to the conclusion that the two paths should not remain closed.

Yours sincerely,

David Andrew
Assistant Director


Edward Chorlton
County Environment Director
Lucombe House
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter
Devon
EX2 4QW

Your ref: CED F(49) ref 68

Dear Sir,

Re-opening of Public Rights of Way

The letter which I received today, by e-mail from Mr Andrew is misinformed and completely unacceptable.

I should be grateful for the courtesy of a reply to the points which I have raised. I should also be grateful to be informed, urgently in view of the precipitate action you seem to be imposing, why it has been necessary to deal with the re-opening of footpaths in this part of the infected area with such haste as to prevent proper consultation: and to know whether you are working to a decision by the elected members of Devon County Council or a diktat from central government.

The points which I have been making apply generally to the footpaths in this area. With regard to Ilfracombe footpaths 24 and 34, I wish to know who, specifically, has taken the decision that they should be re-opened, their authority; and the reason for the decision.

I will wish to appeal against the decision, when I have received formal notification of it: and I should be grateful for confirmation that their opening will be suspended pending this appeal.

Yours faithfully,

Lawrence Wright
Middle Campscott Farm

Ilfracombe
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