New regulations set to 'open up access' to countryside

Regulations are being put before Parliament today which are set to open up the countryside and improve public access, the government has said.

The regulations are the latest stage in the implementation of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, under which the public will have a new right of access to England's mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land by the end of 2005.

Alun Michael, Minister for Rural Affairs, said: "Our aim is to strike a balance between the benefits to be gained from increased public access and the practical considerations which must be taken into account to make this work successfully."

The regulations were drawn up after an extensive consultation exercise, launched in December 2001, which sought the views of a diverse range of organisations, lobby groups, and conservation bodies.

The restrictions regime is designed to combine "maximum flexibility" for land managers with "minimum bureaucracy" necessary to give confidence in the system. The regime is one tool for managing access effectively, and land managers are encouraged to explore informal management techniques before seeking directions to restrict access.

They will be able to restrict or exclude access to land for up to 28 days a year for any purpose, and those with a legal interest in the land will be able to apply for additional restrictions or exclusions where this is necessary for land management, safety and fire prevention reasons.

Restrictions or exclusions on grounds of nature conservation or heritage preservation can also be made by the relevant authorities - the National Park Authority, the Forestry Commission and the Countryside Agency. Restrictions and exclusions for defence and national security purposes may be imposed by the Secretary of State for Defence or the Home Secretary.

The regulations were laid on 24 October 2003 and will come into effect on 17 November 2003.


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