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FARMLAND ACCESS REVIEW ANNOUNCED

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Countryside minister Elliot Morley today invited views on the future ...
Countryside minister Elliot Morley today invited views on the future

of farmland access grants.

Grants for public access to otherwise private farmland have been

available since 1991 under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and

since 1994 under the Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme. Between

them, the two Schemes have increased opportunities for the public to

enjoy the countryside and currently provide over 800 miles of

permissive footpaths, as well as 14,000 hectares of open access, and

special educational access to farms for schools and colleges.

This access now needs to be reviewed to see how it might better link

with land to be opened to the public under the Countryside and Rights

of Way Act 2000 and with the present Rights of Way network.

Mr Morley said:

'The government is committed to open over a million hectares of the

countryside under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. But

permissive access provided by the agri-environment schemes will

continue to have an important complementary role. The review will

ensure that this access is applied strategically to focus much more

on demand and hence open up even more land for the benefit of the

public.'

During the consultation period - which runs from today until

September 27 2002 - organisations and individuals with an interest in

public access to the countryside - whether they are users or

providers - are invited to express their views.

Notes

1. The public consultation period runs from today, July 8. The

deadline for comments is 27 September 2002.

2. The consultation document is available electronically at

http://www.defra.gov.uk or in hard copy from Mrs Lesley Taylor, Area

4C, Ergon House c/o Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR;

telephone 020 7238 5467.

3. The access review is being carried out in parallel with the wider

review of agri-environment schemes which will feed into the mid-term

review of the England Rural Development Programme due next year.

4. The current register of permissive access available under

agri-environment schemes is available from the above address or

through the following link: http://www.countrywalks.org.uk.

5. Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas

currently provide over 800 miles of permissive footpaths, as well as

over 14,000 ha of open access and special educational access to farms

for schools and colleges. DEFRA is the largest provider of

educational access areas in England.

6. Scheme agreements with permissive access are available only where

the new access will provide value for money. Criteria are set to

ensure that the funding will provide useful new opportunities for the

public and the site will be well used. Access usually forms part of

an agreement in which other environmental objectives for restoring or

conserving landscape, habitat and archaeological features are

targeted.

7. Implementation of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000

establishes a new right of public access to mountain, moor, heath,

down (collectively described as 'open country') and registered common

land. Land thus designated will open up over a million hectares of

land to the public, on foot, for quiet enjoyment.

8. The review will examine the current role of agri-environment

scheme permissive access and how this might better reflect likely

demand for access in the future.

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