.." as the foot and mouth outbreak has been brought under control nationally...." Councillor Michael Davey 5th July

July 11 from Lynne Thompson The attached letter is a retyped exact copy of what I received in the post this morning, with a covering letter from Alan Beith (M.P.), dated 10th July, as follows:

Dear Ms. Thompson,

Thank you very much for all your e-mails. I wrote to the Leader of Northumberland County Council, Councillor Michael Davey, about the foot and mouth disease and access to public paths in Northumberland. I am enclosing the reply I have received from Councillor Davey.

Yours sincerely
Alan Beith

Northumberland County Council

County Hall
NE61 2EF

From the Leader of the County Council
Michael Davey
Morpeth (01670) 533053
Fax (01670) 533072


5th July 2001

Dear Mr. Beith,

Foot and Mouth Disease
Access to paths in Northumberland

Thank you for your letter received by me on 29 June 2001, enclosing a letter from Ms. L. Thompson, on the subject of foot and mouth disease and access to public paths in Northumberland.

As you will be aware, as the foot and mouth outbreak has been brought under control nationally, the government have been very keen to ensure that access to the countryside is not restricted in areas where such restrictions cannot be justified on the grounds of disease control. On 23 May 2001 the government published a veterinary risk assessment and guidance to local authorities that indicated that the scale of risks of disease transmission through the use of public paths. This guidance indicated that authorities should leave access restrictions in place within a 3km radius of premises where foot and mouth disease outbreaks had occurred, but that outside these areas, paths (including those over livestock farmed land), should be re-opened together with the promotion of a code of conduct for path users. In Northumberland, we did not act immediately to implement this new guidance but continued to leave the vast majority of paths closed for a further three to four weeks while the situation in the County became clearer with respect to any continuing outbreaks.

As of 15 June 2001 it was over three weeks since the last isolated case of foot and mouth disease in the county (near Wark) and six weeks since the last cluster of cases around Bamburgh. In the light of the elapsed time without and outbreak, the Council decided to implement the policy of re-opening paths as outlined in the government guidance from the 23 June 2001 onwards.

At all times throughout the foot and mouth outbreak we have sought to act proportionately to the risk of path users spreading disease when determining our policy on closing and re-opening paths. Our current position is that paths within 3km protection zones and on other land covered by a Form D foot and mouth restriction are closed, but that all other paths are now open. It would clearly be undesirable to begin to make ad hoc exceptions to this policy as we have no evidence to suggest that the risk of spreading disease through the use of paths is any more significant in one area compared to others outside the 3km protection zones and Form D restricted premises. It would appear therefore that to comply with Ms Thompson's request, all paths in the County would have to remain closed. This is not a situation that can (according to veterinary guidance), be substantiated on the grounds of disease control and is not acceptable to the Council who are seeking the correct balance between the interests of the livestock farming community and the many others in the Northumberland countryside who make their living from visitors and tourism.

I trust this letter adequately addresses the points raised by Ms Thompson in her letter. The Foot and Mouth outbreak has a very severe impact in our rural economy and I hope you will be able to support the balanced approach taken by the County Council to address its consequences.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Michael Davey
Leader of the Council

Rt. Hon. Alan Beith, M.P.
House of Commons