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Ramblers Analysis of Country Landowners Report

February 26, 2012

The wrong way forward – the Ramblers analysis of the CLA’s report

The  report from the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) on a ‘common sense approach to access in the countryside’¹ is anything but – argues the Ramblers.

The report, released today, suggests the ‘Right Way Forward’ for access to the countryside is to reduce the protection surrounding rights of way. The CLA instead favour a system where people can use the countryside by permission from those who own the land – making it easier to alter and take away the routes which people use. If this package of recommendations was taken on by government it could fundamentally undermine people’s ability to enjoy walking in the countryside, an activity which is a popular pursuit for millions and a fundamental right we cherish – Britain’s walking charity warns.

The report supports moves to make it easier to divert footpaths and to ensure that no further footpaths could be claimed after 2026; interestingly mirroring the recommendations of the review of farming regulations which the Government commented on earlier this week.

The Ramblers are deeply disappointed that this report seems to overtake an earlier commitment and agreement made between the Ramblers, the CLA and many other interested parties who are committed to improving the rights of way system. This previously agreed to package of recommendations, if implemented, would put an end to bureaucratic red tape but would maintain the careful balance that is currently to be found between those who own land and those would want to enjoy the rich heritage which is walking in our country.

Benedict Southworth, Ramblers Chief Executive, said:

“We reached agreement with the CLA on many of these issues two years ago as part of a working group set up to look at the future of rights of way and we are disappointed that this report reneges on many of those jointly agreed commitments. It’s a shame that the CLA have chosen to make what looks like an opportunistic bid to keep close to the government, at the expense of everyone who loves the countryside.

“With announcements expected any day now from government on reducing environmental ‘red tape’, and plans already unveiled this week about reducing farming regulation, we feel that this represents a further attack on our rights to walk in and enjoy the countryside.

“At the moment there is a system which manages the fine balance between respecting the needs of the landowner against the enjoyment of those wishing to walk in the countryside. If these changes were implemented by the government that balance would be destroyed.

“Walking is one of the most popular recreation activities in this country and the outcry over the forestry sales shows the level of feeling people have towards using and protecting their local green spaces. We shall resist any reduction in our ability to enjoy the great outdoors and so will all those who cherish this important part of our heritage.”

ENDS

Notes to editors: 1. The Right Way Forward: The CLA’s common sense approach to access in the countryside, published February 2012.

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