Wales open access map review

Posted by Elfyn Jones on 20/07/2012
Wales: an open country?

It's been over a decade since the CRoW Act was passed. For climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers, it gave a legal right of access for walking and climbing to land mapped or dedicated as open access. These maps now have to be reviewed. We explain how you can get involved.

The Countryside & Rights Of Way Act 2000, CRoW Act, was for many outdoor enthusiasts an iconic piece of legislation, arguably the most significant legal statute affecting recreation and access to the countryside in England and Wales since the National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act of 1949.

The most significant element of the CRoW Act was that for the first time ever it gave a legal right of access to the general public for informal recreation on foot – including for climbing – to large areas of countryside that were mapped and designated as 'open country'. These areas are currently marked on Ordnance Survey maps as areas of light yellow shading. Only land that strictly fell within a very prescribed criteria was mapped as open country,  land classed as "mountain, moor, heath, down or common land" – or was over 600m above sea level.

In Wales the land was defined according to its vegetation cover - for instance land that was predominantly woodland or semi-improved would not be mapped as "open country". The land mapped also had to be of a certain size to be of public benefit and had to have distinct boundaries. These maps were produced over ten years ago following an extensive public consultation, and many of the original draft maps were modified following responses from the public and from landowners.

Every ten years it is a legal requirement of the CRoW Act that these maps are reviewed and this process began in Wales on 16 July with the publication by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) of draft maps to open country. The criteria for land to be included as open access has not changed. So there is no purpose in applying to include a crag that is contained within a woodland as open access as this is not on land that fits the criteria.

However there are many anomalies, such as where the boundary of open access land may have been mapped to the top of a crag, excluding the cliff face from open access land or land that was previously deemed to be too small in area to be of public benefit where we can now apply to be included as open access.

The public consultation ends on 23 November, after which the CCW will produce new provisional maps of open country. Any individual can comment on these draft maps  directly to CCW. However, the BMC has agreed with the CCW that it will co-ordinate responses from BMC members in order to ensure a more consistent and coordinated approach.

After 23 Novemebr, CCW will produce provisional maps, but only landowners, occupiers or other with a legal interest in the land can comment on these maps. Conclusive maps will then be produced in September 2014.

It's important to note also that landowners and occupiers can also apply to have land removed from open access maps but CCW's staff have categorically stated that this will only be allowed if the land clearly does not fit the criteria for open land and that all applications to remove land from the open access maps will be very rigorously assessed.

The maps and details of how to directly respond can be found on CCW's website but please also let the BMC know if you think that there is land that should be included as open access but was left out of the original mapping process, by contacting Elfyn Jones the BMC's Access & Conservation Officer for Wales.



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