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News

New project to increase land open to all

Defra : 02 May, 2006  (New Product)
While it is widely understood that the Countryside and Rights of Way Act gives a statutory right of access on foot to 935,000 of hectares of mapped open country and common land in England, it is less well-known that the law also means willing landowners can voluntarily dedicate their land for public access.
Defra has given the go-ahead for 1.2 million in funding to encourage landowners to voluntarily dedicate land for public access.

While it is widely understood that the Countryside and Rights of Way Act gives a statutory right of access on foot to 935,000 of hectares of mapped open country and common land in England, it is less well-known that the law also means willing landowners can voluntarily dedicate their land for public access.

Rural Affairs Minister, Jim Knight, said it would fund a Countryside Agency research project looking at steps that can be taken, nationally and locally, to promote and encourage dedication.

The three-year project will also investigate landowner motivations and concerns and secure a number of actual dedications of land by working with local authorities, landowners, and other local partners.

Mr Jim Knight said the Countryside Agency's project would help raise awareness and understanding of the dedication of land.

'Dedication can make a real difference to access opportunities in places where there is little mapped access land, and it can ease the pressure on land already open to the public.

'Defra is giving full backing to efforts to encourage more and more organisations and private landowners to dedicate land for access, which will ultimately mean more opportunities for people to enjoy a more active lifestyle in our countryside.'

Mr Knight said the process of dedicating land for public access had been made very simple, reducing liability for landowners and making it possible to grant 'higher rights' for activities like horse riding and cycling.

'By helping to raise awareness and understanding, this project will mean that landowners are aware of their options and are able to dedicate land for the wider public good with confidence.

'We should all be grateful to those public-spirited landowners who have already dedicated land for access. It's early days, but they have set a strong example that shows how voluntarily dedicating land can make a real, permanent difference to the countryside.'

Dr Tayo Adebowale, board member of the Countryside Agency, said:

'This project could open up even more of the countryside for people to enjoy - whether it's for walking, cycling, learning about wildlife, horse-riding or canoeing.

'The Countryside Agency looks forward to working closely with landowners and local partners to make the dedication process work for everybody, bringing greater opportunities to get out into the English countryside.'

So far 127,000 hectares have been dedicated by landowners in England. Most of this land is owned by the Forestry Commission, but a range of other landowners have dedicated land or are expecting to do so, including Shropshire County Council, Yorkshire Water Ltd, English Nature, the Environment Agency, Butterfly Conservation, several golf courses and a number of private individuals. The RSPB will also consider dedicating land where targeted dedications will enhance access to wider areas of access land.
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