We have welcomed the support for public access to and enjoyment of the countryside in the new Agriculture Bill which was published on 12 September.
With the Ramblers, British Horse Society and other outdoor organisations, we lobbied for agricultural payments to be directed to providing more and better access to the public.
The Agriculture Bill confers on the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the power to give financial support for public access to and enjoyment of the countryside, farmland or woodland, and better understanding of the environment. Support can also be given for managing the land to restore or enhance cultural or natural heritage, to protect or improve the environment, among other things.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We are delighted that the environment secretary has listened to the combined voice of bodies representing those who champion public access. Public paths and access land give people the opportunity to explore the outdoors, and are vital for our physical and mental health, as well as benefiting local economies.
‘Now we need to work on the detail of the bill, to ensure that the payments give the best possible results. For example, we want to see payments for new and improved access, such as paths created to enable people to walk and ride off-road, to avoid dangerous road-crossings, or to link with existing paths to provide longer routes.
‘We also want to see robust enforcement so that those receiving funds fulfil their legal duties on public paths and access land.
‘Now that these words are in the bill the future is promising, and we shall seize this opportunity to protect existing access, and to provide more where people want it,’ says Kate.