In addition to the many local and regional access issues and initiatives, the BMC is involved in shaping national legislation and policy. Here is an update on some of the current work.
Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill
As previously reported, the main thrust of this Bill is to combine English Nature, the Landscape, Access and Recreation division of the Countryside Agency and the Rural Development Service into a new agency to be known as Natural England. Current state of play is that the Standing Committee has finished sitting and progress through Parliament will resume after the summer recess. It was recently announced that the headquarters of Natural England will be in Sheffield. Perhaps this will mean that the organisation will be filled with pro-climbing sentiment. The BMC continue to watch progress and work to ensure the interests of our members are well represented – two key areas are making sure access and recreation are given enough weight in what will primarily be a conservation and rural payments agency, and ensuring a new offence of damage to a SSSI without the need for the agency to prove the culprit was aware of the SSSI status does not impact on your legitimate activities.
Also going through Parliament just now is the highly technical Commons Bill, which will reform the arcane law dealing with common land. As ever, the BMC access and conservation group will keep a close eye on your interests.
CRoW Mapping – Lessons Learnt Review
As many climbers will be aware, the results of mapping open country under the CRoW Act were not always fair or favourable. The BMC has recently submitted a response to the Countryside Agency’s review of this process, highlighting deficiencies and examples where this resulted in crags not being mapped where they should have been. It is hoped that these mistakes will not be repeated and that there will be an early review of badly affected sites.
Achieving Best of Both Worlds
The worlds in question are recreation and conservation, and the best of these two worlds is where potential conflict between them is prevented by negotiation and best practice guidance. The Countryside Agency, English Nature and the Central Council of Physical Recreation are working together to research and promote good practice in integrating nature conservation and recreational interests in the countryside, clearly the BMC has a lot to say on this and will be part of this work.
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