Residents could boost Essex's economy by taking 400 walking trips each year, a new council plan suggests.

Essex County Council has launched a new walking strategy to create a "coherent" pedestrian and ramblers' network to help the high street, reduce transport costs and improve public health.

The council hopes its Essex Walking Strategy will enable every resident to make at least 400 10-minute journeys by foot or wheelchair each year by 2025 as a "normal part" of their everyday lives.

But opposition councillors have warned that the strategy "lacks oomph".

ECC's plan has nine objectives, including increasing walking for everyday trips, enhanced accessibility, and changing attitudes.

Along with the 400 trips each year target, the council hopes to promote "park-and-stride" schemes and improve waymarking county-wide.

Councillor Chris Pond, leader of the opposition at ECC, told this newspaper that the strategy needs more detail.

He said: "What we want to see are hard and fast actions - more deliverable and measurable targets for each area.

"Realistically, we do not know how and where the scheme will be rolled out.

"These are good targets, but the whole plan needs a bit of oomph."

He added: "In Loughton, where I represent, the town council has started naming alleyways to help people move between neighbourhoods and improve tourism in Epping Forest.

"I want to get more support for that as it has massively helped people find shortcuts and feel able to walk."

Diane Shepherd, chair of Uttlesford Ramblers, said rural footpaths must not be forgotten in the strategy.

Diane said: "Stiles could be replaced with kissing gates for accessibility, and keeping paths clear of debris would help create A-to-B routes in the countryside.

"These are urgent improvements."

Saffron Walden Reporter: This narrow footpath in Epping Forest is next to a busy road and has a rough surfaceThis narrow footpath in Epping Forest is next to a busy road and has a rough surface (Image: Archant)

In a consultation ahead of the strategy, 74 percent of respondents supported increasing walking space in the county.

Cllr Sue Lissimore, ECC's deputy cabinet member for sustainable travel, said: "Our Walking Strategy is a plan to get more of us walking on our footways and paths in rural areas, towns, cities and neighbourhoods.

"It is a key component of our safer, greener, healthier campaign to encourage Essex residents to travel sustainably."