Andover Town Council has deferred a decision on whether or not to support a plan by Andover Ramblers to ask Hampshire County Council (HCC) to not mark some rights of way in town.

Andover Ramblers had asked councillors to support a proposal to relieve HCC of the duty so that these signs do not “skew” assessments of maintaining rights of way across the county, particularly in rural areas.

However, councillors were unable to find a map of the affected routes, deciding to contact HCC directly to address some of their concerns.

Under the Countryside Act 1968, highway authorities such as Hampshire Highways have a duty to erect a sign “at every point where a footpath, bridleway, restricted byway or byway leaves a metalled road” and indicate the direction and distance of points on that right of way.

However, they can be relieved of this duty if the parish council “are satisfied that it is not necessary”.

The Ramblers named a number of rights of way they wanted to go unmarked, unless there was a convenient post for a sign nearby, including Union Street and Watery Lane.

They said: “For some urban paths the need to waymark them is questionable. They are mainly tarmacked and it is obvious they are for use by the public. They are identical to footways which require no waymarking. Often there right of way status is simply a carry-over from before developments have taken place.”

They asked for the rights of way to be excluded so that the Ramblers could more accurately calculate a Best Value Performance Indicator audit of HCC over rights of way, saying: “A proliferation of rights of way in an urban area can skew the results markedly and give a completely false picture regarding the HCC performance. We would much rather they spent their time clearing path obstructions and repairing rights of way furniture (stiles/gates/bridges etc) than erecting signs that are not needed.”

Councillor David Coole said that he was “against reducing or changing the signage for the rights of way.”

He said: “Just because they’re on a right of way doesn’t mean waymarking should not appear. We’re in an environment now where we’re encouraging people to get out and walk and edify existing routes, and we should not let Hampshire County Council off the hook for providing these signs.”

However, Cllr Luigi Gregori said that he was “in two minds” about the plans, saying: “If we can guide how Hampshire County Council spend their money… we should encourage people to go out and about and spend money on rural paths.”

Cllr Barbara Long raised concerns that she hadn’t seen a map of the proposed routes, and would not make a decision without it.

Following an intervention by HCC Cllr Zillah Brooks, who was attending the meeting, the town council decided to defer the matter while she discussed the issue with individuals at the county council.