Meacher gives positive signal

9 October 1998

Meacher gives positive signal

BOTH the Country Landowners Association and Ramblers Assoc-iation have welcomed environment minister Michael Meachers speech during the Labour Party conference at Blackpool.

The two organisations are hanging on Mr Meachers every word while the government decides whether to legislate to increase public access to the countryside or allow landowners to increase the provision voluntarily.

Mr Meacher insisted that the government would deliver its commitment to give greater freedom to explore open countryside.

"We are looking for real change: incremental change at the margins is not acceptable. We believe that open, uncultivated land should be accessible to all," he said. And, if voluntary access did not meet government stipulations, ministers would legislate.

In the 50 years since the Countryside Access Act was passed, only 40,000ha (100,000 acres) had been opened up, said Mr Meacher .

Nick Way, the CLAs chief political adviser, welcomed Mr Meachers speech as a reaffirmation that the government would consider the voluntary approach for improved public access.

The Ramblers Associations interpretation of the speech, however, was that government was starting to take into account the publics desire for a legislative approach to provide greater access. &#42

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