Public access must be maintained, the BMC said

Public access must be maintained, the BMC said

Mountaineers’ representatives have launched a charter to urge the Government to secure access to England’s countryside.

The move comes in the wake of widespread uncertainty following the coalition Government’s controversial plans for forest sell-offs in England.

The British Mountaineering Council today issued a 10-point plan to make recreation and access central to policy on the English countryside, particularly access to cliffs, crags and mountain areas.

The BMC’s access and conservation officer Cath Flitcroft said: “Public recreation and access need to be at the heart of all decision making concerning our countryside. These are fundamental to people’s enjoyment and understanding of our outdoors, helping to feed the desire to cherish the natural environment – a key political theme at the moment.

“It is vital we lay down fundamental principles to protect public access for quiet recreation and enjoyment of the countryside. These principles must help inform sensible policy decisions including those around the Public Bodies Bill and forestry sale debate.”

The charter says the Government should:

  • Ensure no loss of public access or the conservation value of public land through sale or transfer
  • Dedicate public land to create permanent access rights
  • Support existing bodies in the delivery of public access and recreational opportunities
  • Recognise the importance and value of outdoor recreation in any new landscape designations
  • Ensure statutory access requirements are not jeopardised by public expenditure cuts
  • Ensure access and outdoor recreation remain a priority for local authorities
  • Change the wording of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act to match the Marine and Coastal Access Act
  • Understand personal risk in outdoor recreation and occupiers’ liability
  • Recognise the potential after-use of quarries
  • Support greater use of agricultural subsidies to secure access opportunities.

The 70,000-member BMC recently joined 12 outdoor bodies, including the Ramblers, Open Spaces Society, Long Distance Walkers’ Association, Disabled Ramblers, the Campaign for National Parks and the Sport and Recreation Alliance in condemning provisions in the Government Public Bodies Bill, which would hand sweeping powers to ministers and put hard-fought-for access at risk in the disposal of Forestry Commission land.

Full details of the countryside access charter are on the BMC’s website.

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