public access and enjoyment reached a milestone today, with the
laying before parliament of regulations on how restrictions and
exclusions of access will operate.
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, commented:
'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.
'These regulations demonstrate the government's commitment to
broadening access to the countryside in a way that is sensitive to
the needs of land managers.'
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
The resulting 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
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
Restrictions or exclusions on grounds of nature conservation or
heritage preservation can also be made by the relevant authorities -
the national park authority where access land falls within a natio nal
park, the Forestry Commission where land voluntarily dedicated for
access is comprised mainly of woodland, and the Countryside Agency in
all other cases. Restrictions and exclusions for defence and national
security purposes may be imposed by the secretary of state for
defence or the home secretary.
The restrictions system will open for applications in each region in
time to allow the necessary restrictions to be granted before access
commences. To ensure this, applications will, in some cases, need to
be made while the maps of access land produced by the Countryside
Agency are still provisional. If appeals are made against decisions
it may not always be possible for these to be resolved before the
right of access comes into force and, in these cases, land will be
open while the appeal process takes place.
An overview of the restrictions regime is published on the Defra
Detailed guidance to land managers will be issued by the Countryside
Agency before the restrictions system opens for business in the lead
mapping areas in 2004.
1. The regulations were laid on 24 October 2003 and will come into
effect on 17 November 2003.
2. Part I of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 provides for
the creation of a new statutory right of access on foot to 'access
land' - usually open country and registered common land - in England
3. The regulations were made under section 32 of the Act, and allow
landowners and tenants to restrict public access to land for any
reason for up to 28 days each year by notifying the relevant
authority. Applications for restrictions or exclusions can be made to
relevant authorities for the purposes of land management, to avoid
danger to the public from things done on the land, or to prevent fire
during exceptional weather or vegetation conditions. Relevant
au thorities can also give directions to restrict or exclude access
for nature conservation or heritage preservation purposes, and the
Secretary of State for Defence or the Home Secretary can do the same
for defence or national security purposes.
4. The Access to the Countryside (Exclusions and
Restrictions)(England) Regulations 2003 apply to England only. There
are separate regulations for Wales.
5. The Regulations build on the proposals set out in the Department's
consultation paper 'Consultation paper on proposals for regulations
on the exclusion or restriction of access to open countryside and
registered common land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act
2000', issued in December 2001. The department will issue a summary
of responses to the consultation paper, to be available from
6. The government in November 2002 affirmed that the new right of
access will be introduced on a region by region basis. The first two
regions are due to open in the late summer of 2004. This timetable
will be subject to when the Countryside Agency can issue its
conclusive maps, which is dependent on the number and extent of
appeals made on the provisional maps.