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Rural Matters: More needs to be spent on getting the most out of our rights of way.

Limited investment in footpaths and open spaces in the West Midlands countryside is preventing the region maximising its tourism opportunities, rural leaders have warned.

A report by The Countryside Agency and Advantage West Midlands, highlighted that pounds 6 million needs to be spent on the region's rights of way alone to bring them up to standard.

About pounds 500 million is spent each year by people visiting or using the local network of rights of way and open spaces but less than half is spent in the countryside, according to the report, In-formal recreation and the regional economy in the West Midlands.

The agency said it was likely limited investment in rural recreation facilities was holding back the potential to make it an even more substantial contribution to the economy.

Nigel Jones, of the Countryside Agency, said: 'If we can improve the quality of the routes and rights of ways and enhance the overall quality of the visitor experience it will undoubtedly boost our regional economy.'

Ian Baker, head of rural renaissance at Advantage West Midlands, said: 'The importance of outdoor activities to the region's economy should not be underestimated.'

Examples quoted include the Mortimer Trail in Herefordshire, which has generated between 15 and 30 per cent more income for businesses along the route. The trail is one of a number to benefit from pounds 500,000 investment from AWM's Project Green Grass.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 23, 2004
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