of farmland access grants.
Grants for public access to otherwise private farmland have been
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
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.
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
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.