THE COUNTRYSIDE Agency has been accused of delivering poor, misleading and badly-timed information regarding the new Countryside and Rights of Way Act.

The Country Land and Business Association says the agency has concerned some farmers by sending them letters about open access land, even if they do not have any.

But the same letter has not been sent out to many other people who should have received it.

Sue Harrison, deputy regional director in the north of England, said the CLA had complained on numerous occasions that information issued was misleading.

“The situation has not improved. In fact, it appears to be getting worse as the agency rushes to meet the government‘s self-imposed, unrealistic deadlines.”

Ms Harrison said the government intended to open up vast areas of the countryside in four months time but walkers did not know where they could go.

“The Countryside Agency even admits that its own conclusive maps are “not the best guide to access land”.

“It admits it can only hope that walkers‘ maps will be available from the Ordnance Survey,” she added.

The CLA is also worried because although the agency does make some hard copies of maps available it does encourage landowners to check them on the internet.

The association says government departments in general are far too reliant on the cheap and easy option – the internet – without considering the people who need the information.

A spokeswoman from the Countryside Agency rejected the accusations.

Farmers without access to the internet could access information through the Open Access Contact Centre (0845 1003298), she said.

Copies of conclusive maps were also held in local authority offices.

The spokeswoman said in the south east and lower north west all people with an agricultural holding number had been sent a letter.

This meant that some people who were not affected did receive it, she admitted. “But we would rather get to as many people as we can.”