The Welsh Government’s consultation paper on the future funding for agriculture fails to spell out how subsidies will be directed to securing more and better access, and how grants will be withheld from land managers who abuse the law on public paths and access. We argued for these objectives in our response to the earlier consultations, Brexit and our Land (October 2018) and Sustainable Farming and our Land (October 2019). Disappointingly, they are not mentioned in the consultation on the proposed legislation.
With Ramblers Cymru and the British Horse Society, we have again called for funding to be directed to the creation of new, permanent paths where people need them, as identified in the rights-of-way improvement plans; the creation of routes to link gaps in the path network, or to improve safety by enabling walkers, riders and cyclists to avoid using roads; new and improved access points on or within access land; provision of higher rights on access land; removal of stiles and gates; additional signposting and waymarking; and better-maintained routes across arable land.
In addition, if a landowner or land manager does not keep existing rights of way in good order, the grant should be refused or docked, as public money must not be given to those who break the law. This should result in a better-maintained network and reduce the burden on hard-pressed highway authorities.
We shall lobby candidates in the forthcoming Senedd election on these points and hope to persuade Welsh Government to adopt these proposals in its Agriculture Act.