Access at the heart of land-use policy

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On 4 July our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, and the Ramblers director of advocacy and engagement, Tom Platt, gave evidence to the House of Lords Land Use in England Committee.  They focused on the many benefits of greater public access, its lack of a home in government, and the potential for access to be central to considerations about land use.

The House of Lords Land Use in England Committee published its report today (13/12/2022). Photo: Open Spaces Society

The committee’s report is published today.  It calls for the creation of a Land Use Commission, to enable the development and promulgation of a land-use framework to help landowners, managers, and other decision makers to make the most appropriate decisions for land.  It would be a supporter and facilitator of effective multifunctional land-use.

We are pleased that public access is recognised in the document. It says:

The covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of green and open space for access and recreation, and the ongoing revival of tourism following the end of the pandemic has given this issue further prominence.  However, there is little commitment to supporting access in ELMS [the environmental land management scheme], and this must be reviewed as part of the development of a land-use framework with a view to prioritising access as a public good and reducing potential conflict with other important land uses.  It is particularly important to prioritise access near locations where people live, such as in and near urban and peri-urban areas.

It calls on government to give urgent clarity to the ELMS programme, and also recorded Kate’s point that access needs to be recognised in the planning system and that developers should offer, as a quid pro quo, new rights of way or new access.

We hope that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Thérèse Coffey, will give this report her attention and act on it.  Last week, miserably, she told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that access in ELMS was ‘a level of detail’ which she had not yet seen.  She went on to say that access had to be ‘much more carefully managed’ in order not to threaten biodiversity targets (a myth).  So, it appears she is not in sympathy with the multifunctional land-use proposal advocated by the House of Lords Committee.

We sincerely hope that will change, and are pleased to have the weight of the committee in support of our call for greater access, especially close to where people live.

Featured image: Diana Parkhouse

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