29 September 2000
Respect public access, farmers told

By FWi staff

FARMERS must show more respect for public access through their land, claims a leading right of way officers representative.

Institute of Public Rights of Way Officers president Martin Elliott says officials spend too much time dealing with obstructions and cropping across paths.

As a result of trying to settle these disputes rights of way, officers are unable to devote enough time to developing strategies managing access.

Increased rights of access to the countryside are a key element of the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill, currently at committee stage in the House of Lords.

Landowners have warned that the legislation will lead to chaos unless it clearly defines the land where ramblers would be allowed to walk.

Speaking to FWi at the institutes national conference on Friday (29 September), Mr Elliott urged farmers to view the Bill more favourably.

“Farmers need to recognise the public does want wider access to the countryside,” he said.

“I know they are concerned about an influx of people, but they need to look at the positive sides of the Bill”.

“If rights of way officers could spend less time dealing with issues about cropping and obstructions, they could devote more time to developing ways of managing access.”

Mr Elliott sought to reassure producers that increased access need not mean an increase in rural crime.

“The majority of people want to go there to enjoy the countryside, not go there to commit a crime,” he insisted.

He added: “In any case, how many criminals are going to look at the definitive map first?”

Earlier Mr Elliott told the conference that if politicians are really committed the right to roam, then they fund its introduction properly.

He said: “As a profession we can deliver but only if we have sufficient resources.

“Without the necessary funds the Bill will give only an impression of progress”.