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Tuesday, 27 October 2009

If the government changed would our access to the countryside change?

dcc walk edmundbyers

I’ve never been specially happy with the state of access to “open access” areas following New Labour’s CROW Act 2000(the one which doesn’t allow wild camping…)

For a start, there are places where I can not now take superdawg, well, legally anyway. I used to go pretty much anywhere I like with the pooch, but not anymore. The grouse moors of the North Pennines are now out of bounds.

A gamekeeper I spoke to on a local estate (a very big one as it happens) wasn’t bothered about me and my dog wandering the ridges – as long as that’s what I did – wander the ridges. But nowadays he really ought to police the place as there’s no dogs allowed and there’s unofficial, but official-looking CLA waymarks next to public rights of way to prove it.

And some places are almost permanently closed – one moor is effectively open for access for just the one month, during which they close it to shoot the grouse.

Then there’s the wild camping which you’re not supposed to do.

So, whilst I wasn’t specially happy, at least there were times and places where I couldn’t now be challenged for being off-path,

Then Nick Herbert, Tory MP for Arundel and South Downs is reported to say that the ban on fox hunting with dogs is a duff law and should be repealed.

Article in The Sunday Telegraph 18 October 2009

'There is a compelling case to get the hunting ban off the statute book' by Nick Herbert, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (quote from Nick Herbert’s website.)

Then, in Grough – this.

http://www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2009/10/27/landowners-urge-mps-to-throw-out-coastal-access-bill

The Countryside Land and Business Association don’t like the thought of people having access to the coast.

And rolling back the fox-hunting ban leads me to wonder if the Tories have any plans to roll-back any other New Labour legislation – and there’s always a chance, I suppose of a bit of class-war revenge…

So I send Nick an email and ask him the question. Do the Conservatives intend to alter the current access legislation. I should point out here that Mr Herbert is the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Foot and Rural Affairs. He bangs on a lot about preserving and valuing the countryside.

Did he reply?

Not on your nelly, nor on mine if I had a nelly at all… prolly thinks I’m an activist or something…or maybe he just couldn’t be arsed talking to a townie….

But then , in a speech to the Kent branch of the CPRE he says this:

“Health and wellbeing is improved by access to the countryside. It’s important for our children, whose development is enhanced by outdoor play, and it’s important for adults who can reduce the risks of stress-related conditions through the kind of tranquillity that nature provides. Natural England even refer to the ‘Natural Health Service’. I’d like to see stronger links between farms and schools – and we simply mustn’t allow the current health scare to prevent that.”

Seems fine. I’m probably just being a bit paranoid. Politicians have that effect on me, for some reason.

Incidentally, on his website, Nick says that he was instrumental in setting up the Countryside Movement. This, of course, is now called the Countryside Alliance.

The countryside alliance’s stance on access is detailed here: http://www.countryside-alliance.org.uk/our-campaigns/our-policy-jigsaw/more-on-access-to-the-countryside/

This may be a significant sentence “The contribution that land mangers and farmers make to conservation and biodiversity targets must continue to be valued, and public access to land should not take priority over protection and conservation of habitats or species.”

That looks like a possible watering-down of an already pretty watery soup. I don’t feel too happy just now. Something for the Ramblers to do…

4 comments:

Andy Howell said...

I seriously doubt we would have the access legislation we have if the Tories had been in power for the last decade. It is easy to get frustrated about the rate of progress but access is a project in progress; land ownership is far more complicated in England than in Scotland.

Hopefully, the Marine Bill will be passed before the General Election — this will extend access to the entire coastline of England and Wales.

You could enquire whether the Tories will support this bill — an this clause — when it is presented. And if it falls will they re-present it if they win the next election?

mike knipe said...

Well, I could enquire, I suppose, but I'm still waiting for a reply to my first question. It could well be that the bill will be well on its way into law before they reply!
We should also remember, of course, that CROW took two or three years to implement and was much more expensive in terms of infrastructure than was intended (info boards, stiles etc) - so - in a time of economic stringency, the money for implementation could be very slow to appear whoever wins an election.
It would never have appeared on a tory party manifesto, though, given its provenance.
More questions than answers

tim-bonner said...

Mike

The Countryside Alliance did not oppose CROW and does not oppose an extension to coastal access. We do have some concerns about the way coastal access is being implemented i.e. we don't see any evidence for huge public demand for 'spreading room', but wholly support the concept of 100% access around the coast.

Tim Bonner
Countryside Alliance

mike knipe said...

Thanks Tim - a very useful, comment, and soothing to a degree.... I guess we'll have to wait for developments and see how high a priority a new government puts on implementation - which, I'm guessing could be quite expensive.