08 December 1998
Drop right to roam, say Tories

By Jonathan Riley

THE Government should abandon its plans for a legal right to roam across open countryside, said shadow environment minister Gillian Shepherd this morning (Tuesday).

Speaking to the media at the House of Commons, Ms Shepherd said legislating to increase public access was “like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

And she accused the Government of adopting a confrontational approach and turning the right-to-roam debate into a class war against those who have inherited privileges.

“Government could increase public access overnight by publicising the existing rights of way if it wanted to,” said Mrs Shepherd.

But the Government should redefine the laws of trespass to clarify the rights and responsibilities of walkers and landowners, said Mrs Shepherd.

Before Ms Shepherd make her statement at the House of Commons, the Conservative Party consulted six countryside and wildlife groups which favour an increase in public access.

The groups consulted included the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE).

“We agree with the CPRE that those who live and work in the countryside have a legitimate voice in the access debate,” said Ms Shepherd.

“Access can help create mutual understanding between those who regard our environmental heritage as something for us all to enjoy,” she concluded.