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Campaigners call for legislation to protect countryside access

1 May 2018

A coalition of organisations has teamed up to encourage people to add their voice to a campaign to protect and enhance the future of countryside access.

The government has launched a consultation on its proposals for the future of food, farming and the environment, which will shape the upcoming agriculture bill and have a significant impact on the future of access to the countryside. People are being asked to respond before 8 May 2018.

In response, the Ramblers, The British Horse Society, the British Mountaineering Council, the Open Spaces Society and Cycling UK are urging people to sign their joint petition, which calls on government to ensure the upcoming agriculture bill recognises the importance of access as a public good and includes measures which protect and enhance access to the countryside.

Stephen Russell, spokesperson for the group, said: “As 70% of UK land is agricultural, the new bill is really important because it will set the agenda for the future of our countryside and have an impact on the quality of the environment and everyone who wants to enjoy it.

“Responsible access to the countryside brings many benefits to society; from boosting physical and mental health and wellbeing, to allowing people to be better connected with the natural environment.

“An improved and enhanced rights of way system that encourages walking, cycling, horse riding, carriage driving and disability access would give people the chance to gain a better understanding of the work of farmers, helping to secure public consent for investment in the countryside.”

The organisations involved believe the agriculture bill should include measures to ensure farmers fulfil their existing legal responsibilities for path maintenance and to reward them through public payments for increased and improved public access. 

It is important that public money supports farmers, as custodians of the countryside, in delivering this critical public good and helps ensure the countryside is an even more welcoming place for people to visit and enjoy.

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