Last year Natural England agreed that all its National Nature Reserves (NNRs) and similar holdings should be legally dedicated for permanent public access unless there were compelling reasons on particular sites not to do so. Now work is underway to make that decision a reality.
Natural England says the process will take up to four years, and in that time the organisation will assess all its eligible NNRs and then deliver recommendations in batches to its chief executive for approval, starting this autumn. The first rights of access will come into force next year.
Once created, these rights of access will run with the land permanently. Under the terms of the relevant legislation, dedicated access is for recreation on foot, but Natural England says it will look at improving access for horse riding and cycling where possible, along specified tracks or to provide links with existing routes.
In formulating its recommendations, Natural England says that a key requirement will be meeting the primary nature conservation purpose of National Nature Reserves, while adopting the least restrictive option for access possible. Access staff, site staff and nature conservation specialists will work together to explore access at each site, including other partners where relevant.
The BMC has welcomed this step by Natural England. The BMC has also dedicated its own properties under CROW legislation, including Horseshoe Quarry.
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