3 March 2000
No farmer liability in roam Bill?

By FWi staff

LANDOWNERS will escape legal action if ramblers injure themselves exercising their right to roam under the new Countryside Bill, it is believed.

The Bill, published on Friday (3 March), will enshrine a right to roam across open countryside and boost protection for environmentally important areas.

But landowners will not be held responsible for any accidents to walkers caused by natural features, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Landowners will only be liable if injuries are caused by man-made features such as barbed wire or farm equipment, it adds.

Ministers agreed to the concession after being stung by criticism of proposals to give public access to moor, mountain, heath and common land, says the paper.

The Country Landowners Association said the right to roam must trust people to look after themselves, rather than make farmers liable for accidents.

It was also important that provision was made to keep dogs on leads when near livestock and wild animals, said Anthony Bosanquet, CLA president.

Proposals in the Bill to increase protection of Sites of Special Scientific Interest were welcomed by the environmental group Friends on the Earth.

Craig Bennett, FoE wildlife campaigner, said the new laws will make it illegal to damage SSSIs, and give greater powers to stop damage and order restoration.

But there should be more money made available to farmers to pay for the upkeep of sites, he added.

Mr Bennett also called for a statutory underpinning of species recovery programmes, protection of non-SSSI wildlife sites, and action to save peat bogs.

The Council for the Protection of Rural England said regional characteristics of hedgerows should be recognised in protection criteria.

A CPRE spokesman said a statutory duty should be placed on local authorities to set up boards which would protect Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.