At a meeting today of the countryside opportunities steering group, environment, planning and countryside minister Carwyn Jones said:
'I am pleased that the CCW is making£220,000 available this year in access infrastructure grants which I hope councils will take full advantage of and provide match funding so the total sum available can be doubled. The grants will enable them to initiate footpath improvements, put up new signs and information boards and fill other identified gaps in local infrastructure. The aim is to help ensure that the new areas of open countryside can be easily reached and enjoyed by the Welsh public and visitors to Wales.
'Alongside plans to open up the countryside, a concerted effort is under way to make sure people treat the areas open to them with respect. Responsible access is the key message in the updated Countryside Code which I launched last week at the Royal Welsh Show. Our superb countryside is there for everyone to enjoy; but in doing so we need to respect the property and livestock of those who live and work there.'
The minister also thanked the countryside opportunities steering group for its work in assisting in the forward planning for increased countryside access.
'A range of key partners are represented on the group - farming unions, Ramblers Association, national parks, Communities First and the Welsh Local Government Association. They are all working closely together to help ensure that the potential benefits of increased access can be maximised - via co-ordinated marketing, provision of guidance and other means. A lot of preparatory work has already been done - but there is still more to do.
'The importance of access to the countryside for recreation and for the economy of Wales cannot be underestimated. Successive studies have shown that walking tourism generates over£500m each year for the Welsh economy. Implementing the Countryside and Rights of Way Act effectively should help ensure that communities throughout Wales can share the many potential advantages of greater access to the countryside.
'As well as the economic benefits, more recreation in the countryside can help us meet the Welsh Assembly Government's Health Challenge Wales vision of a fitter, more active population. I am very keen that we reap these benefits for the people of Wales.'