registered common land a year early in some parts of England after
plans for a rolling programme have been announced by rural affairs
minister Alun Michael.
Right of access under Part I of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act
2000 to mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land
previously off-limits to the public will be will now be introduced
region by region.
In a written statement to parliament, Mr Michael said:
'I am pleased to announce that we have decided that the new right for
the public to walk on mountain, moor, heath, down and registered
common land in England will be rolled out on a region by region
basis. We are convinced that the best approach is to give walkers the
right to walk in open countryside and on registered common land as
early as possible. Rather than wait for the mapping process to be
completed for the whole country, I intend to open up land in the
first two regions, the South East and Central Southern England, to
public access during the summer of 2004.
'This is a demanding timetable which requires conclusive maps for
those regions to be available, restrictions on access and necessary
exclusions to be in place and guidance and codes of practice to be
available to walkers and landowners. It is most important that all
these mechanisms are in force in each region before any access land
is made available to the public to ensure that the interests of both
land managers and walkers are safeguarded. We expect all access land
to be open not later than the end of 2005.
'Opening some access land
more than a year earlier than originally planned shows our commitment
to making the provisions of Part 1 of the Countryside and Rights of
Way Act 2000 a reality. Because of that Act, people will be able to
walk on land in some of the most beautiful areas of the countryside
that were previously off-limits and rural businesses in those areas
will benefit from new trading opportunities.
'In bringing the new right of access into force, we have maintained a
careful balance between the rights of walkers and the rights of land
managers. It does not affect land managers' discretion to use or
develop land as they think best, taking into account other
regulations governing changes of land use. In the vast majority of
cases it is likely to have very little impact on operational
practices. Owners and occupiers will be able to close their land for
up to 28 days each year for any reason, and to seek further
restrictions or exclusions of access where necessary.'
The original intention was to allow access to all eight English
regions, which are being mapped individually by the Countryside
Agency, to be opened at the same time, by the end of 2005.
But today's announcement means that the public will have access to
some areas earlier, where the mapping process is complete. This means
the South East and, Central Southern England should be open for
access during summer 2004.
1. The government's Public Service agreement target is for the new
right to walk across mountain, moor, heath, down and registered
common land in England to be introduced no later than the end of
2. The Countryside Agency is charged with identifying on maps
registered common land and open country across England under the
Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000. The Act creates a new right for
walkers to walk across this land after conclusive maps have been
published by the Countryside Agency and all restrictions and
exclusions applying to the land are in place. These access rights are
not currently in force. The Countryside Agency has divided England in
to eight areas and is mapping these through the following steps:
- publish a draft map of registered common land and open country -
this is subject to three months of public consultation;
- publish a provisional map of registered common land and open
country which may include changes made in light of comments
received on the draft map - people with a legal interest in the
land included on the provisional map have a right to appeal against
their land being included and have three months from the
publication of the provisional map to do so;
- publish a conclusive map of registered common land and open country
which includes changes made in the light of the outcome of appeals.
The Countryside Agency expects conclusive maps to be issued 6 to12
months after the issue of provisional maps. The new rights and
responsibilities will come into force after conclusive maps are
issued and all necessary restrictions and exclusions of access are in
3. Provisional maps for the South East and Lower North West and the
draft map for Central Southern England have been issued. Further
information about the draft and provisional maps is available on the
Countryside Agency websiteand from the mapping helpline on 0845 100 3298.