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The BBC's Charlotte Smith
"Over the years more than eleven bills have failed"
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The BBC's Rachel Ellison
The bill's journey through the upper house will not be easy
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Claire Madron, The Ramblers' Association
The bill will bring great benefits to everybody
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Sunday, 17 September, 2000, 04:52 GMT 05:52 UK
Ramblers rally for right to roam
Ramblers want a right to roam enshrined in law
Thousands of ramblers are expected to take part in rallies across England and Wales on Sunday in support of the Countryside Bill.

The government is facing strong opposition from the House of Lords over the bill - which will enshrine a rambler's "right to roam" on open land.

The bill's journey through the upper house will not be easy, as more than 11 similar bills have already failed.

Ramblers are worried the same will happen to the latest bill, and are calling on the government to get tough and push for their right to roam.

The Countryside Bill aims to:
create a right to roam for more of the nation's mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land
include landowner safeguards to protect wildlife and land use
introduce new powers to end the obstruction of rights of way
better protect Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)

Among the reasons behind the Lords' opposition to the bill is the objection of many land-owning peers to the plan to introduce a statutory right to roam on restricted land.

A number of proposed amendments have been introduced to improve the bill, but many fear they could wreck it altogether.

There are worries about night access to land, whether dogs would be allowed on footpaths, and the possible impact of walkers on farming and wildlife.

While they want the bill to be passed, ramblers do not want to see it watered down by the Lords.

Time constraints

Claire Madron, spokeswoman of The Ramblers' Association, said it was a "fantastic" bill which was supported by nine out of 10 people nationwide, and would bring great benefits to everybody.

As well as giving ramblers new freedoms, it would improve protection for wildlife and the environment.

"Walkers bring an awful lot of money to the countryside, and that has got to be a good thing in the current climate," she added.

But with so many bills due to be considered this session, the Countryside Bill could be pushed off the agenda because of lack of parliamentary time.

The House of Lords returns after the summer recess in 10 days' time.

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See also:

31 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Countryside bill 'under threat'
03 Mar 00 | UK Politics
'Right to roam' to become law
13 Jun 00 | UK Politics
MPs row over moonlit walks
14 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Cash boost for footpaths
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