Environment Secretary David Miliband joined more than 300 people at a celebration today of the 75th anniversary of the Kinder Scout mass trespass.
Mr Miliband, seen by many as a future leader of the Labour Party, told the gathering at the Peak District town of New Mills, that land is a public good. Even private land, he said, was a public good that we should all be able to enjoy.
Environment Secretary David Miliband speaks at the Kinder 75 celebration
He said: “It should be accessible to all. That’s why I think the CRoW [Countryside and Rights of Way] Act is very, very important. What’s most interesting is that if you give responsibility to people who love nature and want to enjoy it, they will act in a responsible way.
“Change comes from the pressure from the bottom up as well as from the top down in Government. I think the lesson of the 1930s is that we should recognise that sometimes governments are behind public opinion and not always in front of it.
“The people actually changed the politics in the 1930s.
“The fact that it took 70 years to get the right to roam suggests that politics can sometimes be far too slow.”
The Environment Secretary told the meeting in New Mills Town Hall that, in the next couple of months, he would put forward proposals for coastal access.
The event was hosted by Mike Harding, folk singer, comedian, writer and former president of the Ramblers’ Association. He spoke out against the building of windfarms, which he said blighted the upland areas of the country. Kate Ashbrook, chair of the Ramblers and Sir Martin Doughty, head of Natural England, also spoke to the gathering.
Ms Ashbrook said the CRoW Act should be amended to bring England's chalk downs within the access land.
Sally Goldsmith performed her song Trespassers Will Be Celebrated and High Peak Community Arts, along with local participants, performed On Common Ground.
Former Labour deputy leader Lord Hattersley spoke, and renowned writer Jim Perrin, a friend of trespass leader Benny Rothman, gave a powerful address.
The proceedings were rounded off by Mike Harding’s rendition of The Manchester Rambler, written by Ewan MacColl.
grough will be producing a comprehensive report of the event later this week, so keep checking the site.