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Stackyard News Jan 05
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Right To Roam Myths - Cla Puts The Record Straight

CLAAs people in the Upper North West of England prepare for the implementation of open access in May, the CLA has expressed concerns about perceptions of rights allowed under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Despite much publicity, the CLA says that a number of issues are causing confusion.

CLA's Assistant Regional Director, Carole Hodgson, said: "Given the complexity of the Act, it is understandable that people are confused about specific points, but given the amount of funds spent on publicising the new rights, it is disappointing. Landowners and managers are already spending a great deal of time and effort on preparing for the implementation of the Act and I feel that we must clear up some of the more common misunderstandings before the new rights commence."

The CLA has identified ten of the more common misconceptions, which it addresses as follows:

1. It is not a right to roam According to the Countryside Agency, the legislation does not provide a 'right to roam' but a right of access, under certain conditions, to "access land". "Access land" is land which has been shown by the Countryside Agency on conclusive maps of open country and registered common land, and which is not excepted land.

2. It does not yet exist The new rights do not exist yet in the Upper North West and therefore cannot be used. They will come into place when all the conclusive maps of access land have been published and the Secretary of State has authorised their commencement. This is planned to be May 29, 2005.

3. You do not automatically have a right of access even if land is mapped as access land Apparent access land, even if mapped as such, may be closed for a period of time or may actually be excepted altogether. Temporary closures on grounds of health and safety, wildlife and conservation, sporting and other interests may be applied.

4. You will not be able to walk through people's homes and gardens Even if the area is mapped as access land, you will not be able to walk within 20m of a dwelling, or in gardens or courtyards within the curtilage of a property, unless a right of way already exists. Nor will you be able to walk on other types of excepted land such as: cultivated land, public utility structures such as electricity substations or telephone masts; quarries and other mineral workings; railways and tramways; golf courses, race courses, airports and aerodromes; land being developed in one of the ways above; land within 20 metres of a building used for housing livestock; land in use for temporary livestock pens; land habitually used for training racehorses between dawn and midday, and at other times when the land is actually being used for training; and military land to which Ministry of Defence byelaws apply, e.g. training areas

5. Landowners may restrict access at certain times Landowners will be able to close their land for up to 28 days a year, excluding public holidays, for any reason and for longer periods for land management purposes, or in connection with public safety or fire risk

6. The Landowner receives no compensation whatsoever for allowing you on their land. The government has decided that access will become a statutory right and that no compensation will be payable.

7. Landowner is not liable if you injure yourself on natural features. Some access land may be inherently dangerous and visitors are responsible for taking proper care of themselves and any children or dogs that accompany them. When access land is open to the public, the occupier of the land will not be liable to anyone exercising the right of access, or trespassers, injured by the natural features of the landscape, such as rocks, trees, rivers, streams, ditches or ponds.

8. The Land has not been Nationalised. It still belongs to the landowner, who will continue to pay for its upkeep maintenance and conservation.

9. It's your responsibility to make sure you do not cause damage. I need something sensible to qualify this and I'm not sure if people think they aren't liable anyway The rights granted by the Act are for the purposes of open-air recreation not including camping and horse riding and are subject to the proviso that the person exercising such rights does so without breaking or damaging any wall fence hedge stile or gate.Unless access is restricted by byelaws, all the rights granted are exercisable at night as well as during the day. If the public use the access in contravention of the provisions then they can be requested to leave the land for 72 hours.

10. You cannot ride horses or bikes, nor take part in organised sports on access land Horse-riders and cyclists will continue to have the legal right to ride along public bridleways that cross access land, but there will be no general right of access to access land as there will be for walkers. The new access rights will normally include the right to walk dogs on access land- but between 1 March and 31 July, or at any other time near livestock, dogs are only included if they are on a fixed lead of no more than 2 metres long.

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