Countryside Alliance Director for Wales Rachel Evans writes: The Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Lesley Griffiths AM, has this week launched a consultation which includes amongst others, proposals to extend the Countryside Rights of Way Act (CRoW) for open access to land and water in Wales. It also seeks to make footpaths and bridleways available for multiple use. The outcomes of this consultation could have serious implications for those who already own land designated under the CRoW Act and could see an extension to other land to include non-tidal waters.

The consultation document, entitled “Taking Forward Wales”, was launched quietly on 21st June and is extremely broad in the number of topics it aims to cover.

In brief, the proposals include;

• To enable cycling and horse riding on footpaths to occur under the same conditions as those provided for cycling on bridleways under section 30 of the Countryside Act 1968
• To amend or revoke the following list of restrictions on access, provided in Schedule 2 (1) of the CRoW Act 2000:
(b) uses a vessel or sailboard on any non-tidal water;
(c) has with him any animal other than a dog;
(i) bathes in any non-tidal water; and
(s) engages in any organised games, or in camping, hand-gliding or para-gliding.
• To allow, with appropriate authority, organised cycle racing on bridleways in order to bring rules relating to bridleways into line with footpaths.
• To extend Part 1 of CRoW Act access land provisions to rivers and other inland waters.

The Alliance’s position remains the same in that we warmly welcome improved access to our countryside but stand firm in our belief that this should be managed access with landowners’ permissions and not forced upon us. The Government made no recent effort to engage with those who would be most affected by greater access before launching this latest consultation. The Alliance has engaged with several stakeholders in the outdoor recreation sector and it seems that almost all have been refused a meeting with the Minister to discuss access. The countryside is not simply a place of recreation but a place where people live and work. Access rights must respect the existing rights of those who own and manage land and water.

We will be lobbying hard on these issues. Please join us at this crucial time and contact [email protected] to find out what you can do to help.