Swedens right-to-roam lesson
By Catherine Hughes
PROBLEMS caused by Swedens right-to-roam laws have increased the determination of landowners leader Ian MacNicol to ensure the same does not happen in Britain.
Mr MacNicol, who has just returned from a visit to Sweden, said the countrys experience reinforced the Country Landowners Associations view that increased public access to the countryside in the UK must be on a properly managed, voluntary basis.
Sweden has a land area twice the size of the UK, but only has a sixth of the population. Its landowners are reporting increasing problems of litter, fly-tipping, inconsiderate car parking and dogs worrying stock, he said.
One farmer he visited, close to Stockholm, said she employed someone every Monday morning to clear up after the weekend visitors.
Although the problem is confined mainly to farmland on the urban fringe, it highlighted the difficulties a right-to-roam policy could create. “If they are having problems, just imagine what could happen here,” Mr MacNicol warned.
Leisure activities in Sweden were also increasing, with horses and riders chasing across open countryside, damaging crops because they did not recognise the difference between cereals in early growth and grass.
But liability is not an issue in Sweden, with everyone responsible for their own actions. “This made me more determined to push the changes on liability here,” he said. “If farmers are expected to open up their land, they should not be burdened with extra liability.”
It was not surprising that British farmers were reluctant to invite more people on to their land, because they would be liable for any accidents. “This has to change if the Government wants more access,” he said.