30/01/2004

New guidance set to improve countryside access

Public access to the countryside took a step forward today, following the launch of guidance for land managers on how to dedicate land voluntarily.

Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, the public will enjoy a new right of access on foot to England's 'open country' including mountain, moor, heath, downland and registered common land by the end of 2005.

In making a dedication, landowners and long leaseholders can expand that list to include areas which are not already covered by the new right, such as woodland and coastal land. Higher rights than access on foot, such as cycling and horse riding, can also be introduced.

Dedicated land would confer a right of access permanently or, in the case of leasehold land, until the dedicator's lease expires.

Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael said: "This guidance provides landholders and leaseholders with an opportunity to create new access opportunities across land which would not otherwise be available to the public. Making a dedication also means that existing access opportunities can be protected for future generations to enjoy.

"The Forestry Commission has already shown its support by making a commitment to dedicate its entire freehold estate. I hope others will follow the example set by the Commission by considering the case for making a dedication".

The guidance is designed to provide potential dedicators with advice to help them decide whether making a dedication is right for them. It contains model forms which can be used by landowners and leaseholders wishing to make a dedication, and details of the bodies which can be approached for additional help and information.

(gmcg)

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