The Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW)Act 2000 granted the public right of ‘open air recreation’ on foot to mapped areas of Mountain Moor Heath and Down and Registered Commons, which has become better known as the ‘right to roam’.
The public’s right was introduced in stages and was made available across the whole of England in October 2005. In Wales, the new right was introduced in May 2005.
The act was extremely contentious and the CLA lobbied to minimise the impact on landowners and continues to lobby and advise members on CRoW.
Defra - The Right of Access to Open Countryside
On 22 November 2006 Helen Ghosh, permanent secretary at Defra and Dr Helen Phillips, chief executive Natural England answered questions on the right to access to open countryside following the National Audit report.
The Public Accounts Committee questioned the witnesses on the lack of a pilot test in their approach to the project and the subsequent doubling of costs.
Witnesses stated that the original figures were a “guesstimate” and that there had been 22.1million visits to 'access land' in 2005.
Other subjects discussed include increase in access to mountain, moor, heath and down areas, the right to walk around the coast, dog regulations, biosecurity and telephone helpline for walkers.
This has concluded that there is little information available on the numbers of people who have made use of the new access rights. Furthermore, obtaining information on the new rights - including from the website, telephone helpline and Touirst Information Centres - proved difficult.
The Committee also noted that encouraging people to walk across the countryside would increase the risk of adverse environmental impacts, including erosion, and that there could be greater risk of inadvertent transmission of infectious animal diseases.
With the project costing almost twice the Agency's original estimate, the Committee recommend strongly that lessons are learned before the extension of further access rights to coastal land occurs.
Does CRoW Affect My Land?
CRoW introduced public access to specific areas of England and Wales. The Countryside Agency (now Natural England) and the Countryside Council for Wales were given the project to map areas of Mountain Moor Heath and Down and Registered Commons which is shown on the conclusive map.
Not all land that has been mapped is subject to the access arrangement. Land which falls into the definition of excepted land, section 15 land, or has a formal restriction or closure in place is not available for public access.
Can I Restrict Public Access to the Land Mapped?
The Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act provides a right for the land to be restricted or closed for public access for land management, public safety, fire risk and conservation.
In order to formally restrict the land, an application has to be made to the relevant authority and processed.
The CLA works with its members to help those with land affected by the new public right to marine and coastal access so they can reach a fair balance which also reflects their needs.