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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 11:56 GMT
Right to roam maps unveiled
Ramblers, BBC
Farmers say some walkers do not respect the countryside
Draft maps detailing proposed areas of the countryside where ramblers will have the right to roam have been published on Monday.

It is the first stage of the government's plan to give free access to most mountains, moorland and commons in England.

The new access rights will not be granted until 2005, when approved maps of the whole country will be completed.

The plans still face fierce resistance from some farmers reluctant to open up their land to the public.

It is a grave discourtesy that these people haven't been informed before

John Lees
Owners and tenants association
They believe many people have no respect for the country code, and that opening up routes under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 will leave them with damage to property and livestock.

They are particularly worried about people allowing their dogs off the lead while walking on farmland.

A spokesman for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said access needed to be carefully managed to protect the countryside.

Inspection fears

He said: "It is essential that this Act does not simply become one that provides rights for users and responsibilities for land managers."

We need people to tell us where we have made mistakes - if we've made mistakes we'll go back and amend the maps

Bob Roberts
Countryside Agency
The maps drawn up by the Countryside Agency cover some areas very badly hit by foot-and-mouth disease, and the CLA fears some farmers will not easily be able to inspect them because of movement restrictions.

There are also concerns that farmers will find difficulties gaining access to the maps.

John Lees, secretary of the Peak Park Moorland Owners and Tenants Association, said there was only a short time to deal with a lot of problems with the maps.

No access

"There are all sorts of areas which are included in open countryside which in fact are enclosed land and used by farmers when they are gathering their sheep.

"There's going to be many small farmers who don't have access to the internet.

"It is a grave discourtesy that these people haven't been informed before. There should have been prior consultation."

Bob Roberts, the Countryside Agency's head of access policy, admitted there were likely to be some teething problems, including some areas being wrongly shown as open and others wrongly shown as closed.

'Missed bits'

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Perhaps its not surprising that people who see the maps for the first time on the internet react.

"I wouldn't be at all surprised if user groups look at other areas and tell us we have missed bits.

"We need people to tell us where we have made mistakes - if we've made mistakes we'll go back and amend the maps.

"These areas aren't being opened up at the moment it's a consultation."

The maps will be on display at libraries and local authority offices around the country and a touring roadshow will take the information to the public, who can comment on the plans between now and February.

The BBC's Tom Heap
"The freedom to walk unhindered has been a rambler's dream for years"
Countryside Agency's Bob Roberts
"We hope for a good response to these maps"
See also:

30 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Act brings right to roam closer
17 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Ramblers rally for right to roam
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