As Environment Secretary, Mr Meacher pushed through legislation that led to open access areas

As Environment Secretary, Mr Meacher pushed through legislation that led to open access areas

Outdoor campaigners paid tribute to a former Labour Environment Secretary who has died.

Michael Meacher was the architect of the right-to-roam laws in place today that allow walkers in England and Wales to leave footpaths and explore the uplands and uncultivated land.

The Oldham West and Royton MP died after a short illness, aged 75.

The Ramblers said: “Michael Meacher was the Environment Secretary who took the historic decision to introduce legislation giving the people of England and Wales a right to roam.

“The resulting Countryside and Rights of Way Act opened up, for the first time, many of the finest areas of the English and Welsh countryside for people to explore and enjoy. Millions of people, now and in future generations, stand to benefit from his legacy.”

Ramblers’ chief executive Benedict Southworth said: “We’re saddened to hear that Michael Meacher MP has passed away. He leaves behind an important legacy through the role he played in passing the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which allows people to freely explore much of our open countryside.

“As a great believer in people being able to access our beautiful countryside his heart was with the work of the Ramblers. He was a true champion of the people and will be missed.”

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society who was heavily involved in lobbying for the legislation, said: “Michael Meacher was a very un-Blairite left-winger. As Minister of State for the Environment he faced down the reluctant Blair, who wanted to appease the landowners, and pushed through the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000.

“This began the process of opening uncultivated land throughout England and Wales to the people for recreation. That process is far from complete, but whenever we wander on the hills, heaths and downs we should remember the vital part Michael played in securing our freedom.”

Mr Meacher was a Labour frontbencher for 29 years and stood for the post of deputy leader but was defeated by Roy Hattersley.

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