BMC calls members to support New Access for Wales

Posted by Elfyn Jones on 14/09/2017
Show your support for Wales! Photo: Alex Messenger

Truly radical and exciting proposals for extending and improving access to the outdoors in Wales have been put forward by the Welsh Government in its consultation paper: “Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Resources”. Read on to see how climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers can support this.

The Welsh Government (WG) has produced a consultation paper on “Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Resources”. The consultation is extensive and wide ranging, affecting a range of issues and matters as diverse as farming, hunting with snares, felling licences for trees and litter laws. However, the exciting interest for climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers, is contained in Chapters 3 and 4 – Designated Landscapes and Access to the Outdoors.  

There is much in the document that is welcomed by the BMC, but there are reservations regarding a number of details, how the proposals will be implemented, and other matters that could be added. This is especially true for the proposals surrounding the future management of Wales’ National Parks, which will be covered in a separate article and have to an extent already been discussed here – the support and response already given by BMC members made a considerable difference.

Overall the BMC is really pleased to see publication of this consultation and wholeheartedly supports the ethos and ambition outlined by the Cabinet Secretary in her introduction to the consultation. To a great extent many of the access proposals reflect the BMC’s own proposals that were raised with the WG in the Open Access Wales campaign and we are particularly pleased to see the proposal to extend open access to the coasts and cliffs of Wales being included.

How to: send your response

Just click and sign to show your support. We wanted to make it incredibly simple for our members to respond, so all you have to do is click the button below and write your name at the bottom of the email. 

Members can directly email the Welsh Government with our response linked in an email template using the button below. All you have to do is write your own name at the bottom of the template. Members can down download and read the BMC's response before sending it, or read below for the summary of the document.

The initial BMC response is based on discussions at the BMC Cymru area meetings, a workshop held attended by a range of BMC access volunteers, members of the BMC Access Management Group, Mountain Training Cymru and BMC Cymru/Wales, the BMC Executive Committee, and discussion with key access volunteers in Wales. The basis of the response is set out by the BMC’s agreed core access principles, appended below. We would now like the views and support of other BMC members before the final submission on 30 September. We also want to encourage members to write in directly to Lesley Griffiths AM, the Cabinet Secretary for Welsh Government for Environment and Rural Affairs in support of the BMC position and to express their own views as well.

In summary: the access proposals

There are 17 separate proposals for improving access to the Countryside of Wales – some are simply technical amendments to exiting legislation while other proposals suggest very radical changes to the current access arrangements. The full draft of the BMC response can be seen here. The main proposals and the BMC’s responses are below (numbers refer to the full Welsh Government consultation document).

Proposal 10: To allow cycling and horse-riding on public footpaths.

This is one of the most controversial proposals and the most difficult for BMC members to agree on. Many BMC members are also mountain bikers and many public footpaths are very suitable for use by cyclists, but this is currently illegal (trespass against the landowner). Cycling is currently allowed on designated cycle ways and public bridleways and this proposal would extend that right to all public footpaths. The BMC’s response is to support this proposal but subject to the very strong reservations that there should be paths identified that are not suitable and are inappropriate for cyclists to use (for reasons of erosion, conservation, safety of other users, land management, congestion or other issues) and cycling should not be allowed on these paths. The activity should also be controlled by a statutory and enforceable access code (as suggested by proposals 16 and 26).

This response is in accordance with the BMC’s previously published and agreed access principle of “least restrictive options” where activities should be allowed but subject to local and necessary restrictions on a case by case approach. This is the approach taken for rock-climbing and we would be seen to be hypocritical not to support a similar approach for other non-motorised recreational activities.

Proposal 11: To remove some restrictions on activities under CRoW Act.

This proposal aims to allow recreational activities on open access land that are currently illegal, such as genuine wild camping, swimming in rivers and lakes, paragliding, etc. Again the BMC supports this proposal subject to the implementation of a statutory code. Very controversially (but good news for kayakers!), this proposal also aims to give legal access to inland waters (rivers and lakes) for kayaking and canoeing.

Proposal 13: To extend CRoW access land to the coast and cliffs.

This has been a key BMC ask for many years. Most sea-cliffs in Wales are excluded from open access land, despite the land above them possibly having open access. This means that technically we are trespassing and have no secure access to climb on some of the most iconic sea cliffs in the world. Extending CRoW access land to include the coast and cliffs would secure access as of right to some of our most important climbing venues.

Proposals 16, 26: To develop a statutory code of access for Wales.

The BMC fully supports the introduction of a code of statutory access, similar to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, for Wales. The character and culture of the countryside of Wales is different from Scotland and a Wales specific code is required. The relaxation of the current restrictions will depend on compliance with a good of good practice and behaviour if conflict is to be avoided. We believe that this will be critical to the success of implementing these proposals to extend and improve access to the Welsh countryside and are calling for Welsh Government to ensure this aspect of the proposal is well publicised and resourced.

Proposal 27: To review and clarify roles of local access forums.

The BMC feels that local access forums (LAF’s) in Wales, while having had some limited value, have not been as effective at improving opportunities for access as they could have been. In many instances these have, at best, been talking shops, and at worst, have been totally ignored by some local authorities. For the recommendations in this consultation to be successful, we feel that the LAF’s need to have more powers, that local authorities and national park authorities should have a legal obligation to listen to and take note of their decisions, and that the make-up of the LAF’s should be more representative and have representatives of key user groups with full voting powers, not simply interested individuals as is the case at present.

We urge all BMC members but especially those in Wales to email or write to Lesley Griffiths AM Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs to express their view.  We know that many landowners and farming unions will be opposing these proposals, but the BMC truly believes that these proposals are good for both the citizens of Wales and for visitors alike, and with a well-publicised and far ranging access code will improve both access and understanding of the Welsh coast and countryside. To make life easier we have prepared an email template – feel free to use this or amend it as needed for your response.

Send responses to: 

Natural Resources Management Team,
Welsh Government,
Cathays Park,
Pillar J08 East Core,
CF10 3NQ

Or email: naturalresourcemanagement@wales.gsi.gov.uk


JOIN THE BMC: 5 reasons hill walkers should join the BMC

Join online today by Direct Debit and save 50% on your first year's membership.

WATCH: What does the BMC do for hill walkers? on BMC TV

GET THE KNOWLEDGE: BMC resources for hill walkers

  • Hill Walking Essentials DVD: Follow Fredelina and Ben as they learn essential skills and techniques for the British mountains. Buy it now in the BMC shop.

Follow the BMC's hill walking Twitter feed: @BMC_Walk


« Back

Post a comment Print this article

This article has been read 7807 times

TAGS

Click on the tags to explore more

RELATED ARTICLES

Pembroke: rockfalls, bombs and 2018 briefings.
0
Pembroke: rockfalls, bombs and 2018 briefings.

Pembrokeshire, with great sea-cliffs and amazing climbing, standing out proudly into the Irish Sea on the western fringes of Wales has been given a bit of a bit of a battering by recent storms. The army have also left a few dodgy bombs on the coast that are best left well alone and for those seeking the delights of Range West, then read on for the dates the next round of the scintillating Range West briefing dates!
Read more »

Warning: Storm Ophelia hits Tremadog
2
Warning: Storm Ophelia hits Tremadog

Storm Ophelia made quite an impact across the west coast of the the British Isles on 17 October and the BMC owned crags at Tremadog didn't escape unscathed. Damage to routes, trees uprooted and even some rockfalls were her legacy.
Read more »

British Women Climb: the new exhibition from MHT
0
British Women Climb: the new exhibition from MHT

British Women Climb, the Mountain Heritage Trust’s new exhibition, opened at the Keswick Museum last month. Available to view until 16 September 2018, the installation celebrates the significant achievements of female climbers from the past 200 years.
Read more »

Post a Comment
Posting as Anonymous Community Standards
3000 characters remaining
Submit
Your comment has been posted below, click here to view it
Comments are currently on | Turn off comments
4
1) Anonymous User
20/09/2017
Your email template is male sexist right at the start...why??
How about Dear Madam/Sir or Dear Sir/Madam?
2) Anonymous User
24/09/2017
Wow !!! This summary contains the statement that “We would now like the views and support of other BMC members before the final submission on 30 September”. But the link to this document only reached me in the Newsletter broadcast on 20th September i.e. only 10 days notice on an extraordinarily complicated issue ! Furthermore, the link encourages members to submit a pro forma email to the Welsh Government supporting the BMC response, i.e. their response to the BMC’s statement as contained in this article ! The implication is that the BMC has no intention of modifying its response whatever the membership says. Isn't that a trifle autocratic ?
3) Anonymous User
24/09/2017
Concerning Proposal 10 : “The BMC’s response is to support this proposal but subject to the very strong reservations that there should be paths identified that are not suitable and are inappropriate for cyclists to use (for reasons of erosion, conservation, safety of other users, land management, congestion or other issues) and cycling should not be allowed on these paths.” In other words, the BMC proposes that the default status for all existing public footpaths should be that cycling is permitted unless a particular path is expressly identified as being unsuitable. It is saying that those paths which are not suitable should be identified rather than those that are suitable should be identified. The BMC proposal should be that cyclists are not permitted on designated public footpaths unless the path is expressly identified as suitable. This is not a matter of splitting logical hairs. It will take years for the status of paths to be considered individually by all of the bodies who have to be consulted over change of footpath status. Under the BMC’s proposal, all public footpaths would overnight be thrown open to cyclists and then gradually withdrawn from them on an individual basis as their cases were reviewed, The transition would be much smoother were the default situation to be the other way round, i.e. no access for cyclists on a public footpaths until it has been identified as being suitable. This would give a smoother and better transition.
4) Anonymous User
25/09/2017
As a quid pro quo for cyclists sharing footpaths how about requiring that all bikes using shared ways must be equipped with a bell ?

RELATED ARTICLES

Pembroke: rockfalls, bombs and 2018 briefings.
0

Pembrokeshire, with great sea-cliffs and amazing climbing, standing out proudly into the Irish Sea on the western fringes of Wales has been given a bit of a bit of a battering by recent storms. The army have also left a few dodgy bombs on the coast that are best left well alone and for those seeking the delights of Range West, then read on for the dates the next round of the scintillating Range West briefing dates!
Read more »

Warning: Storm Ophelia hits Tremadog
2

Storm Ophelia made quite an impact across the west coast of the the British Isles on 17 October and the BMC owned crags at Tremadog didn't escape unscathed. Damage to routes, trees uprooted and even some rockfalls were her legacy.
Read more »

British Women Climb: the new exhibition from MHT
0

British Women Climb, the Mountain Heritage Trust’s new exhibition, opened at the Keswick Museum last month. Available to view until 16 September 2018, the installation celebrates the significant achievements of female climbers from the past 200 years.
Read more »

BMC MEMBERSHIP
Join 82,000 BMC members and support British climbing, walking and mountaineering. Membership only £15.72.
Read more »
BMC SHOP
Great range of guidebooks, DVDs, books, calendars and maps.
All with discounts for members.
Read more »
TRAVEL INSURANCE
Get covered with BMC Insurance. Our five policies take you from the beach to Everest.
Read more »