24th Feb 2021
Plans to create an emergency £1m to enable footpath surfacing and repair works to be undertaken has been rejected by county councillors in the region.
The decision made at the Council’s Budget Meeting (Vote at 1:15:00) saw the administration vote against a proposal to use money from the 2020-21 Covid-19 Emergency Grant to pay for it, despite concerns for the safety of the footpaths involved.
Over the last 12 months one of the primary reasons people could go outside in the early days of lockdown was to walk, and as a result of this Kent’s extensive walking routes became more popular. One estimation has claimed the visitor numbers have increased by 20 per cent over the last six months.
The unfortunate consequence is that this highlighted the deterioration of some of the routes, which not only makes them more expensive to repair and resurface but can cause serious hazards.
One councillor, Cllr Ida Linfield noted that some routes were impassible and she seriously injured herself whilst walking on a footpath. She noted that she could have sued the council for her broken knee.
As well as this, the particularly harsh frosts and flood weather have caused further issues to the pathways, with unpaved paths being a mire of waterlogged mud, to the point that walkers have been climbing over fences to avoid the muddy areas.
As well as this, entrances and gates have also suffered major damage as a result of the popularity.
The cabinet member for finance, Cllr Peter Oakford noted the amount of money available in the budget is not bottomless, and that £150,000 in cash had been allocated to keep the footpaths maintained over the next year.
One of the most concerning incidents in the Kent area involves a path in Aylesford, near Junction 6 of the M20. It collapsed in March 2020, with only half of the path still traversable.
Due to the damage being so extensive it has been estimated that the path will cost over £100,000 to fix, and has been put on a priority repairs list to be completed over the next few months.
What Causes Impassible Paths?
What makes a path impassible or dangerous to cross depends on what material the footpath is made of, as well as the nature of the ground underneath it, the weather and temperature nearby and other factors.
Most footpaths are made of asphalt or concrete, in no small part because these are hard-wearing materials which can survive large amounts of traffic for years and are exceptionally resistant to wear and tear when in one piece.
However, concrete is infamously very bad at expanding and moving with other parts of the ground, which can cause it to crack, sometimes in barely noticeable ways.
Once water can get into a crack, it freezes in very cold conditions, which causes it to expand and make the crack bigger. More water can then get in and continue the cycle until the concrete breaks into pieces.
This, along with slippery ice and growing vegetation can make for trip and slip hazards which can injure pedestrians.