Powys County Council has been criticised after it was revealed that £1 million in government funding will be used to open up an ancient countryside byway to 4x4 traffic – despite protecting it for the last 30 years.

The local authority had decided to use £300,000 of UK Government Levelling Up funding to establish a modern track to allow off-road transport onto the historic Monks Trod, in the Cambrian Mountains, near Rhayader.

Now, after a meeting between PCC and Graham Taylor, chair of the Powys Local Access Forum, it has been confirmed that the project has been put forward for funding despite a large number of objections.

The sum being sought from the fund also now stands are nearly £1 million.

The Monks Trod is home to many rare birds and spans numerous conservation areas.


Ecologists and local residents have warned that plans to restore access for motorbikes and offroad vehicles would “open the door to environmental disaster”.

“The council has already put this project forward to the UK Government’s Levelling Up funding department, to replace the one for the Devil’s Gulch,” said Mr Taylor.

“This is despite the large number of objections submitted to the cabinet member, Jackie Charlton.

He added: “A copy of the paperwork on the project, setting out the business case for its inclusion on the Levelling Up programme, is not publicly available for scrutiney.

“There is no information on what other options for spending this money were considered before deciding to go with the Monks Trod project.

“This seems at odds with normal good practice about the use of public funds. It would have been reasonable to expect a report containing an impact assessment and the results of consultation before making a decision."

He concluded: “The council is rapidly losing its green credentials. Its actions also seem to be at odds with its nature recovery plans and declaration of a nature emergency.”

County Times:  The Monks Trod is a stretch of byway around 6 miles in length that passes over a natural peat moorland. The Monks Trod is a stretch of byway around 6 miles in length that passes over a natural peat moorland. (Image: Archive.)

Councillor Charlton, PCC cabinet member for a Greener Powys, said: “The UK Levelling Up fund presents a unique opportunity to develop a long-distance recreational route between Powys and Ceredigion while safeguarding the Monks Trod.

“The council has provisionally been awarded £17.7m of Levelling Up funding, of which £1m is allocated to develop this important Trans Cambrian cycle link between Powys and Ceredigion.

“This cycle link project will incorporate parts of the Monks Trod and therefore some of this funding will be used to bring significant sections up to a standard that will support walking, cycling, horse riding and motorcycle trail riding.

“Previous cost estimates have been revised in line with the additional scoping, inflationary pressures and risks of the proposed cycle link."

She added: “From our discussions with the Powys Local Access Forum, our understanding is that the current forum has not come to an agreed view on this proposal and we will continue to liaise with the forum and other key stakeholders to protect the ancient Monks Trod from further deterioration.”

A spokesperson for Ceredigion County Council said: “The council is aware that Powys County Council has secured Levelling Up Funding to promote recreational tourism in the county.

“Should Powys County Council wish to utilise some of the funding in Ceredigion for collaborative improvements, then the council would welcome further discussion relating to those proposals.”

The Monks Trod is a stretch of byway around 6 miles in length that passes over a natural peat moorland.

Its origins date back to Cistercian monks who ‘trod’ the path in the 12th century while journeying between two historically important abbeys – Abbeycwmhir, just north of Rhayader and Llandrindod Wells, and Strada Florida, in Ceredigion.

4x4 vehicles were banned from the route in 1990, followed in 2002 by temporary orders banning motorcycle use.

This was briefly lifted a few years ago but reinstated when further damage was caused.