Natural England and Local Government Association – 9
This statement seeks to clarify the position that Local Authorities
should take in relation to access provisions in view of the current
localised outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Surrey.
The situation in Surrey is that three kilometre Protection Zones
and a ten kilometre Surveillance Zone have been set up by Defra
around infected premises. In addition, a national movement ban
of all ruminants and pigs has been imposed.
Local authorities have powers under animal health legislation
to exclude the public from land in Protection Zones where this
is judged necessary in order to prevent the spread of animal
disease, but may only act with the consent of the Secretary of
State. Consent has now been granted to Surrey County Council
to employ these powers in relation to the first designated Protection
Zone. Defra’s decision to authorise the use of these powers
in a given area is determined by the disease risk as assessed
on the basis of the evidence.
Current veterinary advice is that, outside a protection zone,
the risk of rights of way users or other visitors to the countryside
spreading Foot and Mouth disease is extremely low. Rights of
way and other access arrangements elsewhere should therefore
remain open and available for use. There should be a clear presumption
in favour of maintaining this public access. The only impact
on visitor attractions should be those which result from the
restrictions on animal movements or those imposed by the attractions.
If restrictions to access are authorised in any particular case,
prohibitions on access under animal health legislation override
normal access provisions, so no separate restriction processes
need to be invoked under rights of way or access legislation.
Any further steps to prohibit access in connection with this
outbreak will be described on the Defra website and communicated
to the local authorities affected.
The three categories of access that may be affected are: public
rights of way, open access land (for both of which local authorities
would be responsible) and permissive access established under
local management agreements or arrangements. Access/ highway
authorities, including National Park Authorities, would need
to assess the need for public information and on-ground signage,
which should be in a standard form, as advised by Defra. Natural
England will show closures of open access land on its website
where such closures have been notified to it.
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