LOCAL authority chiefs are hoping for a £1m boost to council coffers after hitting Government quality targets for footpaths and bridleways.

Almost 77 per cent of the public rights of way in North Yorkshire passed an ease of use test.

North Yorkshire County Council aimed to have 75 per cent of paths outside the two national parks hitting the target by the end of the current financial reward.

It is now hoped the authority will receive a performance reward grant from the Government of more than £1m for meeting the target.

Councillor Clare Wood, the council's executive member for environmental services, said: "This level of performance represents a major achievement for the rights of way staff within the countryside service.

"Over the past few years, staff on the ground, supported by other colleagues in the service, have worked extremely hard to improve the condition of the network.

"They often work long hours in difficult conditions. Their commitment, dedication and enthusiasm, backed by the additional resources that have been put into the service, has enabled the county council to successfully achieve its target."

John Edwards, the council's head of countryside services, said: "The council signed a three-year deal with the Government to improve its rights of way.

"To meet the target the paths need to be easy to use.

"This means they should be sign-posted from where they leave the road, gates and stiles need to be in good condition, the route needs to be way marked and there mustn't be any blockages."

Council chiefs say the improvement has been brought about by investment in the rights of way network, including the introduction of countryside rangers and the establishment of a countryside volunteer service.

These are supported by a team of dedicated public rights of way officers based at county hall in Northallerton and at other offices across the county.

There are more than 6,200 miles of footpaths and bridleways in North Yorkshire.

The county council is responsible for the 3,000 miles that lie outside the national parks.

The two national park authorities are responsible for the rest.