20 March 1998

Legal backing a must for access

A COMBINATION of legislation and voluntary incentive schemes is the best way to increase public access, according to the Country-side Commission.

It has concluded that a voluntary arrangement alone, as favoured by the Country Land-owners Association, would not be sufficient to deliver the extent and permanence of access that the government needed to uphold its manifesto pledge of greater public access to the countryside.

A legislative approach could achieve greater clarity and consistency on standards of access, access control and on the land owners liability.

But commission chairman Richard Simmonds said that voluntary arrangements, supported by financial incentives under an expanded agri-environment programme, also had a vital role in promoting conservation and enhancing the quality of access.