New threat to access rights

Posted by on 20/06/2001

Concerns have been growing rapidly about the way the Countryside and Rights of Way Act is being interpreted and reported.

BMC Patron Alan Blackshaw has pointed out “...the extreme seriousness from the mountaineering and climbing standpoint of the gathering perception that open country will only become legally accessible in consequence of the new Act...”. There is a real danger that well-intended statements about the CRoW Act will reinforce the false impression that walkers and climbers are trespassers rather than responsible lawful visitors to the countryside. For example, the June issue of Camping and Caravanning suggests that access land will need to be mapped before it can be used, which is not the case. Chair of the Access and Conservation Committee Iain McMorrin points out that: “Part 1 of the CRoW Act (that part which deals with access), whilst it breaks much new ground, sets out merely what may be done in the pursuit of a statutory right of access.

The Act does not alter, nor does it diminish, freedoms which have been enjoyed on a de facto basis in the past. The example of mountain camping or bivouacking may serve to illustrate this point. Camping on access land is a 'restricted' activity under Schedule 2(s) of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. This does not mean that camping is prohibited. Nor does it mean that camping is illegal. It means only that camping cannot be undertaken 'as of statutory right' under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. There is no doubt that hill walkers and mountaineers will continue to camp and bivouac in wild places but they will do so on a de facto basis in accordance with freedoms which have existed for centuries and which will continue to exist.” The important point for hill walkers and climbers to remember is that the new CRoW Act gives additional protection to your existing rights and freedoms. The mapping exercise will show those areas where the new additional statutory protection exists; and those area that are not mapped as access land will continue to be as legally accessible as they have been in the past.



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