7 December 2001
Meacher halts plough to save roam rights
By Isabel Davies
ENVIRONMENT minister Michael Meacher has signed an order to halt a farmer suspected of ploughing up moorland to avoid being affected by right-to-roam provisions.
The minister signed an order under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to prevent any further damage to the site on Thursday night (6 December).
The farmer, who was ploughing the land at Kirk Edge, Bradfield in the Peak District National Park, was thought to be taking the action to stop it being opened to walkers.
The land appears on draft maps showing the areas ramblers will have access to under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act.
Mr Meacher said whatever the farmers reason for ploughing the land, the government could not stand by and see it lost because it was critical for the character of the park.
“There is no reason for landowners to fear the new right of access to open country which the Countryside and Right of Way Act will bring,” he said.
“The Act can only be good for the rural economy, which has suffered so much from the loss of visitors during foot-and-mouth.”
In normal circumstances, if landowners want to develop or cultivate any land affected they will be able to and the public will then be stopped from walking on it.
But in this instance the government felt the landscape value was too high and the area had to be protected.
It is only the second time in 20 years that the government has resorted to using and order under the 1981 Act.
Sir Martin Doughty, chairman of the National Park Authority, which alerted the government to case, said the site was clearly of ecological and landscape importance.
“Its been designated as part of the Natural Zone within the National Park and it should be safeguarded”
But the Country Land and Business Association said it was quite wrong to assume that the situation had anything to do with the implementation of the CROW Act.
“We believe that it is highly presumptuous to make a link with the CROW Act and the mapping of open countryside.”
But it added that it understood how essential it was to protect heathered moorlands inside National Parks.
“Our precious national asset must be properly managed so that the balance is maintained between profitable agriculture and the preservation of the environment.”