OPEN SPACES SOCIETY
PM BACK FROM ALPINE HIKE TO WALKERS’ WARNING
When Prime Minister Theresa May returns from her hiking holiday in the Alps on Wednesday she will find a letter from Britain’s oldest national conservation body, the Open Spaces Society,(1) which speaks for walkers, riders and cyclists.
The society expresses delight that the Prime Minister enjoys walking, but urges her to look into the state of public paths in England and Wales which, due to continuing local authority cuts, are deteriorating. Paths are being ploughed out, cropped, obstructed or becoming overgrown and many authorities no longer have the staff to chase up those responsible.
Says the society: ‘A small injection of funds would safeguard future walking and riding throughout our country. Post Brexit we need a regime of agricultural support which ensures that farmers and landowners are penalised when they illegally block public paths.’
The society also emphasises the importance of the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty: these are subject to a variety of development pressures and yet visitors who come to enjoy unspoilt landscapes provide vital support for the rural economy.
It also calls for greater rights of access to the countryside following the partial, though welcome, access to open country provided by the Countryside and Rights of way Act 2000. It points out that the law of common land(2) in England remains inequitable, with landowners able to apply to remove wrongly registered land while the public has only limited opportunities to apply to restore wrongly omitted land as common. Once land is registered as common there are rights for the public to walk there and in some cases to ride, and the land is protected from encroachments.
The society concludes by offering to join the Prime Minister on a walk in or near her constituency in the Thames Valley, or to visit access land which the society helped to win close to Chequers.
Says Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society: ‘We hope that with the memories of the lovely Alpine scenery fresh in her mind, the Prime Minister will look sympathetically at the need properly to fund and protect our splendid countryside and access opportunities here at home, so that everyone can enjoy them.’
Notes for editors
1 The Open Spaces Society was founded in 1865 and is Britain’s oldest national conservation body. It campaigns to protect common land, village greens, open spaces and public paths, and people’s right to enjoy them.
2 Common is land subject to rights of common, to graze animals or collect wood for instance, or waste land of the manor not subject to rights. The public has a right to walk on all commons and to ride on many. Common are recorded on registers held by county and unitary councils.
The Open Spaces Society
25a Bell Street
Henley-on-Thames RG9 2BA
The Open Spaces Society is a registered charity (no 1144840) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England & Wales (no 7846516).
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