THE Wainwright Society has slammed Cumbria County Council over plans to cut £806,000 funding to countryside access services such as footpaths.

The society fears that less money will have an effect on maintenance and access to public rights of way.

It is also worried about the future way-marking of Alfred Wainwright’s coast-to-coast walk, from Robin Hood’s Bay in the North Yorks Moors to St Bees, and the 247-mile re-creation of his 1938 ‘Pennine Journey’ circular walk from Settle that takes in areas such as Appleby, Kirkby Stephen, Sedbergh and Ingleton.

Other concerns include possible long-term damage to the landscape and additional pressure on staff.

But Cumbria County Council says that cuts have to come somewhere – and admits that paths may be affected.

Eric Robson, chair of both the Wainwright Society and Cumbria Tourism, said: “Many of these threatened changes are the worst sort of false economy.

“We already get an internationally renowned footpath system on the cheap, relying on volunteers and charitable donations for much of the work. If the quite small sums of enabling public finance are now to be removed, lasting damage will be done to an industry that contributes £2 billion a year to the Cumbrian economy.”

In response, Coun Tony Markley, economy and highways portfolio holder for CCC, said: “This is not an ideal position to be in at all but we have to do the best we can. We are having to make these cuts and we have to look at everyone and everything because of that.

“If anybody has any good ideas or opportunities to save money then we would be very happy to listen to them.”

A Cumbria County Council spokesman added: “The county is currently consulting on a range of budget options and we'd encourage everyone to get involved in that process.

“The Wainwright Society says the maintenance of footpaths must be a key priority, but others may think it’s looking after vulnerable people, maintaining roads, or supporting activities for children.

“We need to hear all voices before we make decisions.”