A REPORT produced by walking charity Ramblers has revealed a ‘serious backlog’ of paths waiting to be recognised as public footpaths.

It highlights concerns that if any historic paths are not officially listed by 2026, they may be extinguished.

Ramblers chief executive Benedict Southworth said the news meant many well-trodden paths, and other potentially useful routes in East Lancashire would be ‘lost forever’.

The group has launched a campaign and has been working with landowners, managers and local authorities to find ways to make the process for recording paths more efficient.

The recommendations have been put forward to the government and were included in the draft Deregulation Bill. Mr Southworth said: “The proposed legislation has been carefully put together by representatives from landowners, paths users, and local government, including ourselves and the NFU.

“This carefully-crafted solution should make it easier for historic paths to be added to the definitive map. Many of these paths have existed for hundreds of years.

“They are as much a part of our heritage as our ancient monuments and historic buildings.

“By adding them to the official map they cannot be blocked off or built upon and are protected for future generations to enjoy.”

David Goode, public rights of way manager for Lancashire County Council, said the council would be taking part in a project led by the Lancashire Local Access Forum to seek out potential rights of way which could be lost if not identified.

He said: "In East Lancashire the network of recorded footpaths is particularly dense, meaning there are likely to be fewer missing' footpaths than in other areas although a significant number of bridleways may be currently recorded as footpaths.

“At the same time, the regulations will allow for existing applications for Public Rights of Way to be completed, which means any backlog of unresolved cases will not be affected.

“Some anomalies will able to be corrected after the law changes, and well-trodden routes which are effectively extinguished by the Bill will continue to be able to be claimed.”