19 December 1997

Statutory right to roam is wrong…

By Robert Davies

A STATUTORY right to roam law would damage both farming and the environment, says CLA director general, Julian Anderson.

"We recognise public desire to increase access and are anxious to meet it," he told members at Oswestry. "But we believe that the concept of a compulsory right to roam is inherently flawed, and a formula for increased disputes over access."

Not disruptive

The CLA was not just being difficult and obstructive. Many factors, including the cost of managing access, public liability, and sporting issues, had not been properly addressed. He made no apologies for ruffling the feathers of some politicians and civil servants by campaigning instead for voluntary ways of increasing public access to the countryside.

The rights of those carrying out legitimate land management activities on about 80% of the land area of rural Wales, and protection of sensitive habitats, must not be subordinated to give walkers statutory privileges.

The governments original plans would have resulted in confusion, conflict and disruption. Mr Anderson was cheered by the critical public response to banning beef on the bone, but reluctantly agreed that failure to do so could have further delayed the lifting of the export ban. The step added to the despair that had brought producers out on the streets in open rebellion. They felt that nobody in power was listening to them.

"Has nobody added up the cumulative cost to the industry of measures like abattoir charges, passports and other regulations at a time when market returns are falling? If this grim catalogue of decline and financial desperation continues the inevitable consequence is that farmers will be forced out of business," he said.