The Welsh government has recently started a consultation on improving opportunities to access the outdoors of Wales for responsible recreation. The BMC, along with other recreational bodies, welcomes this review and sees this as a great opportunity for outdoor users to tell government what they want out of this review.
The purpose of the consultation, outlined in a government green paper, is to explore the potential for simpler more integrated legislation on access to the outdoors for responsible recreation.
Last year the BMC launched its "Open Wales" access campaign, which saw over 32,000 views on our website and over 4,300 respondents giving direct support to the BMC for this campaign. The BMC are very pleased that the Welsh government has now produced this consultation and are giving the public an opportunity to have their say on how to improve access for responsible recreation to the Welsh countryside.
Carl Sargeant AM, the Minister For Natural Resources says in his foreword to the consultation:
" Having the opportunity to go to a park, visit the countryside, or to take part in one of the many outdoor activities that Wales can provide is a really important part of everyday life for many people in Wales. We are lucky that we have miles of paths that let the public explore and enjoy nature, along with world-renowned rock climbing and mountain biking. Outdoor activity not only provides benefits of healthy exercise, it is also a big income generator for our economy".
The BMC warmly welcomes such positive comments from a senior minister of the Welsh government and feels that this reflects on the considerable efforts made by recreational bodies to demonstrate the value of the outdoors, both economically and for the well-being of Welsh residents and visitors alike.
However this is just the start; as outlined in the BMC's campaign of last year there are real opportunities for improving the opportunities for people to access the Welsh countryside. For instance, the BMC feels that there could be improvements made to access the coast of Wales; despite having some of the best sea-cliff climbing anywhere in the world, there is no statutory right of access to these sea-cliffs. Some of the best outcrops in Wales are not on access land; Craig Y Forwyn being a classic example of where access to a long-established climbing venue was prevented after a change in ownership many years ago.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW Act) 2000 gave a right of access to open country for hill walkers and climbers but many areas are still inaccessible or where access is at best confusing or where walkers don't fully know if they have a right to be on that particular piece of land or not.
The BMC's next steps:
As a key stakeholder, the BMC will be providing a formal response to this consultation on behalf of our members.
The BMC will also be liaising closely with colleagues in other recreational and land management/owning organisations to ensure that this important and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is fully considered.
There are 14 key questions being asked in the consultation and in order to give a full response the BMC will be bring together a group of key invited people and organisations to help the BMC formulate its response.
This will be published on the BMC website well before the consultation ends on 2 October 2015 and members will be encouraged to comment on this response and use it to give their own response to the Welsh government before the BMC submits its final views.
There will be further information on how hill walkers, climbers and mountaineers can support the BMC in due course - watch this space!
The full consultation, including a really useful youth version and the response forms are on the Welsh government website in both Welsh and English
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