09 March 1999
Meacher promises right to roam
By FWi staff
ENVIRONMENT Minister Michael Meacher has promised ramblers a statutory right to roam on about four million acres (1.6m ha) of land in England and Wales.
In a move which surprised both ramblers and landowners, Mr Meacher told MPs yesterday (Monday) that he would introduce legislation for a right to roam as soon as possible.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Meacher said: “We are now convinced legislation is the only way to make sure the countryside will be open in perpetuity.”
The government will now bring forward legislation to establish a right to roam which will grant ramblers access to mountain, moor, heath, down and common land.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the legislation will also force farmers to open up extensively grazed fields and permanent grassland as well as some woodland.
But there will be no right of access to cultivated arable land or fields of crops.
Mr Meacher said the government would propose the new legislation “when parliamentary time allows”.
The new would introduce a general statutory right of area access, coupled with responsibilities for walkers to respect the rights of landowners and managers, he said.
Todays announcement came as a surprise after weekend reports that the government was preparing to ditch its pre-election pledge to introduce a right to roam.
Many commentators had expected Mr Meacher to unveil plans proposals that would combine voluntary access and legal measures and to open up the countryside.