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Tuesday, 30 January, 2001, 08:10 GMT
Act brings right to roam closer
Ramblers want a 'fast track' right to roam
The right to roam over some areas of private land moves a step closer to becoming law on Tuesday when the Countryside and Rights of Way Act comes into force in England and Wales.

This is a vital first step

Ramblers' Association
The Act signals the start of the effort to map out which areas will be open to the public and which will remain private.

But only when the maps are drawn up and the new routes agreed will the public be allowed to exercise their new freedom of access - a process that could take until 2005.

Ramblers groups have already called for a way of "fast tracking" aspects of the Act.

The new legislation could give ramblers the right to wander on four million acres of land, 10% of England and Wales which is mountain, heath and downland.

Maps outlining the new areas are being prepared by the Countryside Agency.

The information will be passed onto the Ordnance Survey to be shown on its detailed maps.


Local communities will have the chance to have their say before a new area is opened to the public.

Consultation will include the option to appeal against the right to roam in their area.

Some land owners say they are concerned that the confusion over the legislation could increase the risk of conflict.

Giving people a right to roam was a central part of the Labour Party manifesto at the last election, but it suffered a series of setbacks in the Conservative-dominated Lords.

As well as giving ramblers new freedoms, the act is expected to improve protection for wildlife and the environment.

Magistrates will also be able to use greater powers to clear blocked paths and there will be tougher penalties available for wildlife offences.

Fast track

The Ramblers' Association fears it could take five years before all the estimated four million acres of open countryside are properly recorded.

The association has called for an immediate tight to roam on land at a height of more than 1,800ft and on registered common land - both of which are already mapped.

Kate Ashbrook, chairwoman of the RA's freedom to roam campaign committee, said: "The law has been passed but until we have the maps there is no freedom to roam.

"We shall be doing all we can to help with the mapping process and to ensure the public will be able to enjoy this new freedom, and understand the responsibilities attached to it, without delay."

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See also:

01 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Right to roam bill under scrutiny
17 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Ramblers rally for right to roam
31 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Countryside bill 'under threat'
14 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Cash boost for footpaths
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