Extending the right to roam backed by survey results

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 11/09/2023
Photo: Shutterstock

The BMC has recently conducted an access survey in which we posed a series of questions about the types of recreational activities members are currently undertaking outdoors and what the future of access legislation might look like.

The BMC believes now is the time to be ambitious and bold and really think about how we increase access to more places, for more people, to be able to do more things; no-one should have to travel far or make a big effort to experience the enormous health and social benefits of being in nature. 

4360 people took part in the survey and the results of this, alongside wider consultation across the BMC, give us the mandate to lobby for amendments to or the introduction of new legislation in England and Wales to significantly extend rights of access.  

In particular, the survey showed:

  • 90% of respondents would support extending the ‘right to roam’ to most land and water in England
  • Woodland, watersides and grassland are those landscapes that the majority of respondents would like to see access extended to
  • 84% of people would like to see wild camping included as a right under new access laws, alongside activities such as outdoor swimming, paddle sports and mountain biking
  • The majority of respondents would welcome a hybrid approach to publicising new access rights – both a mapped approach (similar to the area of yellow wash on OS maps showing open access land) and a code of good behaviour (similar to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code).

READ: A more detailed breakdown of the survey results

Overall, those completing the survey would like to see more areas open for us to enjoy both on land and water, with many more and better-connected spaces close to where people live. Currently, the public’s right to access nature in England is hugely unequal. Not only does our right to roam cover just 8% of the country, much of this is remote from where most people live; there are 92 constituencies in England with no right to roam at all.

It is therefore refreshing to hear commitments from some political parties already (Labour and the Green Party in particular) to say that they would pass new ‘right to roam legislation’.

The Shadow Environment Minister Alex Sobel said: “Labour’s approach, like in Scotland, will be that Labour’s right to roam will offer access to high-quality green and blue space in the rest of Britain. We will replace the default of exclusion with a default of access.

“Research shows that people with a stronger connection to nature were more likely to behave positively towards the environment. It’s quite simple: the more people engage with nature, the more likely they are to protect it.”

So now is the time for the BMC, alongside other like-minded organisations, to lobby for more responsible access to nature and we need to bring as many people as possible with us on this journey if we are to make meaningful change.



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6
16/09/2023
this blog is very informative
Anonymous User
18/09/2023
"rights" must include "responsibilities". "Rights " should not be extended to dogs. The "right" of biodiversity in all its guises should take priority.
Anonymous User
29/09/2023
What we really need is some kind of rule which prevents 'mountain' bikers from cycling on our walking paths and ruining zigzags and turning the paths into deep gulches!
Anonymous User
10/10/2023
I do hope that any extension to Right to Roam is fully inclusive, i.e. access for all, with full consideration given to those for whom getting about in the outdoors necessitates using a wheelchair of some description, e.g. a Mountain Trike or similar. This would mean better surfaced paths & tracks which could also lessen the impact of boots and "ribboning" of paths/tracks as walkers seek the driest, least muddy way through.
Anonymous User
10/10/2023
I do hope that any extension to Right to Roam is fully inclusive, i.e. access for all, with full consideration given to those for whom getting about in the outdoors necessitates using a wheelchair of some description, e.g. a Mountain Trike or similar. This would mean better surfaced paths & tracks which could also lessen the impact of boots and "ribboning" of paths/tracks as walkers seek the driest, least muddy way through.
Anonymous User
10/10/2023
Right to Roam is an incendiary name - Responsible access is FAR better

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