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We are delighted that the Welsh Government is proposing an increase in public-access opportunities in Wales. The society has responded to the Welsh Government’s consultation, ‘Taking Forward Wales’s Sustainable Management of Natural Resources’. Chapter 4 is about access to the outdoors.
We welcome proposals for legal access to coast and cliff and for greater access to riverbanks and lakesides. We have urged the Welsh Government to consider extending access to other land types, provided there is no adverse effect on the existing system of public paths.
The Welsh Government proposes to develop an all-Wales digital map of access. The society would like to see commons and town and village greens included.
The society strongly supports the proposal to repeal the closure of the official maps of public paths on 1 January 2026 to claims based on historic evidence; it fears that this guillotine will lead to the loss of many historic rights of way.
We have expressed concern that Welsh Government wants to change the law to allow cycling and horse riding on footpaths as a matter of course. The society advocates that any change be considered on a case-by-case basis, with suitable routes identified by the highway authority’s adviser, the Local Access Forum. The authority can then put the proposals into their rights of way improvement plans for public discussion, and implementation where routes are suitable for shared use.
We have made a number of additional proposals for improving access to the outdoors.
For instance, we have called for a requirement for developers to dedicate paths associated with developments as public rights of way, and green spaces as town or village greens, to secure them in perpetuity.
And we have advocated a duty on local authorities to take action against unlawful works on common land which impede public access, and for a right for the public to ride horses on all commons.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We are encouraged that the Welsh Government is keen to improve and increase access for all to Wales’s splendid countryside. We strongly support more access to coast and cliffs and hope that legal access for the public can be extended to more places such as woodland and riverbank.
‘We are keen to work with the Welsh Government to achieve this, and have joined the new alliance, Outdoor Access Wales, to create a stronger lobby for public access.’