IoM footpathsThank you Mr President 

I thank my colleague from Douglas South, Mrs Maltby for picking up the petition of Mr David Buttery in respect of public footpaths, bridleways and green lanes on the island. 

Visit Isle of Man have continually worked with the Department of Infrastructure (DOI) and with the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) and various third party stakeholders to promote the footpath network across the island, and to develop the proposition for walking visitors over the past five years. 

Some progress has been achieved – the Raad ny Foillan route now gets cut back three times a year. 

However, there are ongoing challenges impacting Departments who maintain the footpaths including safety, reduced staffing, increased usage and reporting, weather (e.g. erosion, storm damage) to name a few. 

A Product Audit research study undertaken by consultancy firm Blue Sail on behalf of the Visit Isle of Man in 2020 determined that Walking (alongside adventure, active and nature product) as a top visitor growth opportunity for the Island. 

Any investment in the proposition for visitors will certainly help improve the quality of life for our own island population. 

Results of the 2019 Social Attitudes survey suggested that 62% of residents have used the footpath network – and I guess that figure increased significantly during Covid-19.  

In a recent Residents survey also confirmed that: 

  • 81% of residents visited glens/plantations and beaches 
  • 51% did other walking and 38% walking the Raad ny Foillan

However, 44% of those surveyed mentioned that some improvements are needed. 

The Walking Champion that Visit Isle of Man recently appointed has also been invaluable, and it has allowed us to draw on specialist knowledge to develop the walking proposition and promote the Island’s varied walking offer to our key target markets.

Visit Isle of Man have also continued to work across Departments and with stakeholders on developments and current projects including; 

  • Developing a series of accessible routes for families and people with different needs 
  • Encouraging the departments to identify locations that can be continually improved in terms of their accessibility and on site facilities. 
  • A focus on the most visitor friendly and scenic Raad ny Foillan routes offering a marketable product to a more diverse audience and those who only would look to take shorter or weekend breaks.
  • A series of visitor friendly routes, implementing improved signage and infrastructure taking in the Island’s uplands and all summits over 1000ft to attract more experienced ramblers, those new to hiking or those seeking a challenge.
  • The premier routes and footpaths are regularly utilised for many active and endurance community and visitor events for such as Race the Sun, Pilgrimage Isle of Man, No Rest of the Wicked to name a few. 
  • Tour operators on the island are also expanding domestic breaks and with the Island in a strong position to attract new visitors. 
  • The footpath network is part of accessing this incredible landscape, our wildlife and unique natural and ancient sites – these are national assets and why the Isle of Man is declared and internationally recognised as an UNESCO Biosphere. 

Mr President 

There is a need to develop a unified aim and vision for the network. 

I am more than happy to support this motion. 

Thank you