In a move guaranteed to inconvenience and infuriate dog walkers, ramblers, off-road cyclists, joggers, and horse riders alike, Cornwall County Council has today announced plans to restrict the use of all footpaths and BOAT's (Byeways Open to All Traffic) to one-way traffic from April 1st 2011. And "no", confirmed a spokesman for the Council, "this is not an April Fool's Day joke. We are wholly serious".
The move is seen by all those residing in the county as "just another Nanny-State attempt to control our lives". The Council have of course hotly refuted this allegation saying that the move will address the "urgent need for Health & Safety enforcement in the countryside." Councillor Herbert Grey-Suit cited the "high incidence of head-on collisions resulting in the need to call out the Air Ambulance, and the subsequent added pressure on local A & E staff at Hospitals throughout the County".
Challenged by unconvinced members of the public to justify this claim, Grey-Suit gave for an example a completely unheard-of incident in 1958 when an old lady was knocked over by an excited boy on his first bike and suffered minor bruising to her thigh. The lady in question was in fact the boy's grandmother and the family were out together on a summer picnic. (In 2011, with everyone actively out and about looking for compensation, the councillor's concerns are perhaps understandable? Ed.)
However, finally we get to the Council's true motivation for this unpopular new ruling, namely a desperate attempt to produce much-needed revenue.
Incredibly a new breed of rural Traffic Wardens will enforce the law, stationed in strategic places along the footpaths dressed all in green, heavily disquised as trees, and empowered to demand "on-the-spot fines of £100 for a first offence, and £300 for all subsequent offences". A database of offenders will also be set up so that those who are unable to produce the money at the time can be pursued ruthlessly through the courts.
According to Council spokesman Herbert Grey-Suit, all footpaths will be "clearly signed with 3-inch green arrows placed at half-mile intervals along the way". This is considered to be "completely fair" by Cornwall County Council who have so far declined to be interviewed by hard-nosed Radio Cornwall reporter Jack Russell.
Locals in the Penzance area and elsewhere are said to be "shocked and outraged" at this infringement of their liberties, and the over 80's hikers group SOWHAT - Shuffling Onwards With Hope and Trepidation - has already staged a protest demonstration at Cornwall County Council's headquarters in Truro. No less than seven members attended this peaceful demo last Thursday carrying bunches of daffodils, and placards reading "BOSSY-BOOTS OFFICIALS" and "SHAME ON YOU". However the protestors disbanded after one of the Council's security guards came out looking menacingly official and asked them politely to "please go away".
From our rural affairs correspondent Ivor Wurzel