Andover Town Council will waive its rights to have certain rights of way marked in town after a suggestion by the Andover Ramblers.

The walking group had asked the council to relieve Hampshire County Council (HCC) of its duty so that these signs do not “skew” assessments of maintaining rights of way across the county, particularly in rural areas.

Councillors voted to support the idea, with the town clerk to write to HCC, but reserve their right to have the signs marked at a later date.

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”.

Andover 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 that as it is “obvious” these routes are for the public, rights of way in rural locations should be prioritised so that the performance indicator of HCC does not “give a completely false picture” of their work.

The group had previously brought the proposals to a meeting of the town council’s planning committee on January 11, but a decision was deferred as it was unclear which rights of way were being proposed as a map was not included in councillors’ documentation.

Cllr Barbara Long said that she had gone through the routes that were listed by the ramblers.

“Trying to locate them on the map can be very difficult,” she said. “The ones that I have identified, I have seen no reason why they should be waymarked.”

Cllr Christopher Ecclestone concurred, saying that he was “amenable” to the proposal in the short term.

Cllr Long added that she had discussed the matter with the chair of the Andover ramblers, and said she had been assured that if the council waives its waymarking rights, they can change that in future.

She said: “At this moment in time, the suggested footpaths are not waymarked but if in future we feel they should be we’ll come back to Hampshire County Council.”

Cllr Luigi Gregori said he was in favour of the moving, telling the meeting: “As long as we’ve got the flexibility to ensure that if necessary we can pressurise the county council to actually do things.

He added: “It’s a question of resources. If they do less on urban footpaths they may do more on rural footpaths.”

Councillors then unanimously approved a motion to support the plans. The town clerk will now write to HCC and the ramblers informing them of the council’s decision.