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Country News - 2003

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Myths about the right to roam

Thursday 27 February 2003

AS THE consultation process over the so-called "right to roam" legislation approaches its deadline, the Yorkshire branch of the Country Land and Business Association has issued a long statement which sets about destroying various "myths" that have grown up around the programme.

March 10 is the last day to submit proposals for legiuslation covering the Yorkshire Dales National Park and parts of North Yorkshire and the CLA says "it's time to destroy myths about the new legislation (Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000)."

Regional director Dorothy Fairburn says: "It's not surprising that with such a complex Act people are confused and some myths have been created. Landowners and managers are already spending a lot of time and effort preparing for the implementation of the Act and so we feel there's a need to clarify misunderstandings.

The CLA has identified ten of the more common misconceptions and seeks to correct them:

1 It is not a right to roam
According to the Countryside Agency, it is not a general right to roam everywhere, but a right of access under certain conditions to "access land" - land ultimately shown on the conclusive maps of open country and registered common land, and which is not excepted land.

2 It doesn't exist yet
The new rights only come into place once the conclusive maps have been published and the Environment Secretary gives the go-ahead. This may start some time in 2005.

3 Even if it is mapped as access land, you don't automatically have the right of access
It may be closed for a period of time or even excepted altogether. Temporary closures can be on grounds of health and safety, wildlife and conservation, sporting or other interests.

4 No, you can't walk through people's gardens and golf courses
Even if it is shown on the map as access land you can't walk within 20 metres of a house, or in gardens or courtyards within the curtilage of the property, unless a public right of way already exists. Nor will you be able to walk on other types of excepted land such as cultivated land, golf courses, quarries, railways, race courses, airfields, land within 20 metres of a livestock building or pen, racehorse training grounds between dawn and noon or at other times when it is actually being used for training, and military land subject to MoD byelaws.

5 Landowners can close the land
Landowners will be able to close their land for up to 28 days a year, excluding public holidays, for any reason and for longer periods for land management purposes, public safety or fire risk.

6 Landowners will not be receiving any compensation
The Government has decided that access will become a statutory right and that no compensation will be payable.

7 If you injure yourself on natural features, the landowner is not liable
Some access land will be dangerous and it's your responsibility to take proper care.

8 It's your responsibility to ensure no damage is caused
Rights to open-air recreation, not including horse riding or camping, are subject to the proviso that no wall, fence, stile, hedge or gate is broken or damaged by you. If you do, you may be asked to leave the land for three days.

9 No riding, biking or organised sport…and rules for dogs
Horse-riders and cyclists continue to have the right to use public bridleways that cross access land, but there will be no general right of access as there will be for walkers. Dogs will normally be allowed for walks, but between March 1 and July 31 or at any other time near livestock, they will have to be on a fixed lead of no more than 2 metres.

10 The land has not been nationalised!
It still belongs to the landowner, who will continue to pay for its upkeep, maintenance and conservation.


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