30 August 2002

Right-to-roam map errors leave confidence in tatters

By Isabel Davies

MULTIPLE errors in right-to-roam maps will dent confidence in the process of mapping access land and could mean bigger problems lie ahead, farm leaders have warned.

A provisional map of south-east England published just one month ago was riddled with errors, the Countryside Agency admitted last Thur, Aug 22. The revelation prompted NFU regional technical adviser John Archer to warn that farmers would have misgivings about the incident.

"We can anticipate farmers confidence in the Countryside Agencys ability to produce a reliable mapping database is going to be in doubt," he said. "We dont know how the errors crept in; it may be problems with the methodology or a transcription error. I hope it is the latter."

William Tew, spokesman for the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors, said the incident highlighted the need for a public information campaign. Walkers needed to understand which land they would be able to walk across, he said.

"If the professionals are having this much trouble now theres going to have to be a lot of work done to make maps clear to the members of the public. The chaos we have got now could be tenfold when maps are reproduced in guide books. Lets keep an eye on educating people of their rights and responsibilities."

Sarah Lee, policy development officer for the Countryside Alliance, said the mapping process had been flawed from the start. "The Countryside Agency needs to drop the unrealistic time constraints that it has set itself and concentrate on more accurate mapping and consultation with rural people."

It had been assumed the provisional map was accurate. It was an amended version of a draft map put out to consultation in autumn 2001. But Roger Ward, Countryside Agency acting head of access, said a review of the process had shown one square mile of land contained 20 errors.

"While the amount of land involved is relatively small, we are striving to ensure our maps are as accurate as possible and treat any errors seriously. We have withdrawn the south east provisional maps and we will reissue it with the errors corrected shortly." &#42