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Government Attack Countryside Conservation

March 20, 2012

Government red tape slashing is an attack on the countryside – Ramblers warn

19 March 2012

Today’s (19 March) government announcement to cut environmental ‘red tape’ is another attack on the countryside and people’s ability to access and enjoy it – says Ramblers.

The Ramblers fears that today’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’ announcement will mean that people will be charged for trying to open up footpaths for the public to enjoy, make it easier for people to build on, fence off or dig up common land and dampen the dream of an English coastal path.

The government is scrapping or simplifying a swathe of environmental regulations under the banner of cutting ‘red tape’ – including laws designed to protect the countryside. By introducing costs for people who wish to open up a footpath, the government will prohibit normal people from being able to protect access to the countryside and the places they love to walk. Proposals to ‘deregulate’ the works allowed on common land would put more than 400,000 hectares¹ of English countryside at risk, including some of our most treasured communal green spaces such as Mitcham Common, Cambridge’s Midsummer Common and commons in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Ramblers is hugely concerned that today’s announcement, coupled with the proposed changes in planning laws, shifts the balance from protecting the countryside to one in favour of development. At a time when the public has shown it’s appreciation of our green and pleasant land, today’s announcement threatens the very nature of the English countryside.

Nicky Philpott, Ramblers Director of Policy and Campaigns, said: “Today’s announcement, coupled with new proposed changes in planning law, opens up our countryside to unwanted development. Once these green spaces are built upon, they are lost forever – reducing even further the places where we can walk, relax and play.

“Details are lacking, but if this means that the public are charged for opening up footpaths this is wrong. Creating paths benefits the public in many ways.

“Removing regulations which protect the environment in the name of reducing ‘red tape’ is short-sighted; most people want to see greater protection for the countryside, not less. The Ramblers demands the government rethinks this decision before it’s too late.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. There are 7,052 “normal” commons covering 398,414 hectares or 3 per cent of England with other commons designated by local or private acts of parliament, including the New Forest (c22,000 ha), Epping Forest (c2,500 ha), and 17 other commons or suites of sites, ranging from Mitcham Common at Merton (174 ha) to Cassiobury Common (Watford) at less than 1 ha.

2. The full details of the Environment Red Tape Challenge report can be found here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb13728-red-tape-environment.pdf

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