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LOCAL PEOPLE TO HAVE SAY IN PUBLIC ACCESS TO COUNTRYSIDE

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Local people could soon have a new opportunity to improve access to England's countryside, under a scheme announced...
Local people could soon have a new opportunity to improve access to England's countryside, under a scheme announced in last year's Rural White Paper.

As the anniversary of the white paper is marked, the Countryside Commission announced that parish councils, farmers, landowners, walkers, cyclists and riders will soon be brought together in four pilot projects as part of a new Local Access Initiative.

The government has asked the commission to develop, promote and manage up to four experimental projects that will build on the experiences of the successful Parish Paths Partnership and encourage local people to be involved in a range of access management projects.

'The initiative will involve more than just clearing paths and repairing stiles and gates,' explained Richard Simmonds, chairman of the Countryside Commission.

'We have long believed that the rights of way network is the best way that people can enjoy the countryside. But it is not always suited to today's leisure needs and modern farming practices. There are other opportunities for access to the countryside through creating new rights of way, permissive access, and management agreements. This initiative will bring together a wide range of local interests and encourage them to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a range of access opportunities. For example they may identify the need to create a missing link in a footpath or bridleway network, or an opportunity to establish new access to woodland or waterside.'

The commission will support the costs of developing the initiative in four pilot projects based on groups of parishes in different locations across England.

Formal invitations for highway authorities to submit bids on behalf of local partnerships will be issued in November.

The final decision on the successful pilot project areas will be made in January 1997, and the four pilot projects will be established later in that year.

Potential project areas must be able to demonstrate they have a rights of way network which is already in good order, and provide evidence of support from farmers and landowners, parish councils and user groups.

This scheme will build on the commission's Parish Paths Partnership Scheme which is already helping many local people to improve the quality of footpaths and bridleways. Details of that scheme are available in a booklet, Parish Paths Partnership: An Outline (CCP 380), available free of charge from Countryside Commission Postal Sales, PO Box 124, Walgrave, Northampton, NN6 9TL (tel: 01604 781848).

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