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Rural Statement Underplays Vital Role of Paths and Spaces

September 12, 2012

OPEN SPACES SOCIETY

NEWS RELEASE

RURAL STATEMENT UNDERPLAYS VITAL ROLE OF PATHS AND SPACES

 

‘The government should invest in public paths and green spaces to achieve its aim of improving the rural economy,’ says Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society,(1) commenting on the government’s Rural Statement published today (12 September).  ‘By underplaying the role of these vital assets government misses a massive trick.’

‘There is a brief mention in the Rural Statement of “encouraging local authorities to promote cycling and walking by working with community groups and others to invest in off-road networks and rights of way”,’ Kate continues.  ‘These are fine words but local authorities are cutting their rights-of-way budgets and can only invest in paths if they are funded to do so.  Public paths and public access land bring millions of pounds into the rural economy, but local authorities are spending less and less on them.

‘It seems hypocritical that government is set to cut the national budget for the national trails, the arteries of the path network which provides lifeblood for rural communities.  And bizarrely there is no mention of horse-riding—yet riders too spend millions of pounds a year in the countryside.

‘Government fails to mention the role of the country’s 400,000 hectares of ancient common land, (2) which provide recreation and refreshment for the public and are rich havens for wildlife: commons contribute to the beauty and variety of the landscapes which local people cherish and others come to visit for their beauty and wilderness.

‘And it is misleading to claim that under neighbourhood planning communities will be able to ‘decide which green spaces should be protected,’ it’s not as simple as that.  We still await the detail of how the government’s proposed Local Green Space Designation will work.

‘So it’s time that government recognised the vital role of paths and access land, commons and green spaces, in boosting the rural economy,’ says Kate.

ENDS

Notes for editors

1.      The Open Spaces Society was founded in 1865 and is Britain’s oldest national conservation body.  It campaigns to protect common land, village greens, open spaces and public paths, and people’s right to enjoy them.

2.      Common land is (a) land subject to the rights of others (usually owners of nearby properties), to graze animals, collect wood and turf, etc, or (b) waste land of the manor with no rights.  There is a public right to walk on all commons under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.  The commons are recorded on registers held by the county or unitary authorities.  Before fencing can be carried out on a common, the environment secretary’s consent is required under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, consent for works on common land.

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