Countryside Bill could be dropped

31 July 2000

Countryside Bill could be dropped

by FWi staff

THE government is preparing to abandon its countryside bill, designed to protect wildlife and the rights of ramblers, according to newspaper reports.

Ministers have been told it is increasingly unlikely that there is enough time to clear a backlog of legislation through Parliament, reports The Guardian.

A major bill looks likely to be dropped, adds the paper.

The countryside bill is already the subject of more than 300 amendments from Conservative peers and landowners who are determined to restrict access.

It continues: Some ministers now believe a fight with landowners could be the right issue to revive the electorates appetite for further reform of the Lords.

However, deputy prime minister John Prescott and environment minister Michael Meacher are strongly opposed to sacrificing the legislation.

According to The Independent, substantial fears have been raised among wildlife and ramblers groups that the bill could be jettisoned.

The paper reports that one minister has privately admitted the Bill is at risk through a lack of parliamentary time.

The Bill would create a right of access to mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land. It includes provisions to extend access to coastline.

But the Country Landowners Association has warned of chaos unless the legislation clearly defines the land where ramblers would be allowed to walk.

The Bill would also improve protection of Sites of Special Scientific Interest giving conservation agencies powers to prevent damaging farming activities.

The National Farmers Union believes that the legislation could impose “additional burdens on hard-pressed owners and occupiers of open country.”

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