Ramblers celebrate countryside access

LANDOWNERS' fears of problems when large parts of East Anglia's countryside are officially opened up for access from today have been described by a ramblers chief as “absurd”.

By David Green

LANDOWNERS' fears of problems when large parts of East Anglia's countryside are officially opened up for access from today have been described by a ramblers chief as “absurd”.

More than 65,000 acres in eastern England - including nearly12,500 acres in Suffolk and 2,650 acres in Essex - have been identified as coming within new “right to roam” legislation.

But landowners fear some members of the public still believe they can roam anywhere at any time.


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The Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act was passed by Parliament in 2000 and over the past five years more than two million acres of England have become accessible to walkers.

The eastern counties is one of the last two regions to be mapped by the Countryside Agency and today sees the official opening-up of the new areas - to anyone on foot.

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East Anglia's “right to roam” land comprises mostly heathland - much of it on the Suffolk coast and Brecks areas - and commons.

Following launches elsewhere in England some landowners have reported finding people wandering on land outside the new provision and under the impression that they had a right to roam anywhere.

East Anglia's landowners fear similar problems because of mistaken public perception.

“The areas are very specific and unfortunately, mainly because of the description, right to roam, some confusion has arisen,” said Sir Edward Greenwell, former national president of the County Land and Business Association (CLA) whose estate is near Orford.

“It has led people to suppose that they have the right to go anywhere in the countryside without let or hindrance.”

Jane Burch, regional policy adviser to the CLA, said in other parts of the country people had been found wandering outside the access areas.

“There is a perception that the countryside in general has been opened up to access and even within the mapped areas we have had reports of four-wheel-drive vehicles, horse-riders and cyclists. The new access applies only to walkers,” she said.

“Landowners welcome people onto their land but it will only work if there is responsibility on both sides.”

But John Andrews, spokesman for Suffolk Ramblers, said fears of significant problems were “absurd”.

“Elsewhere where the new legislation has been introduced things have soon settled down and have run more smoothly than anyone dared hope,” he said.

The new “right to roam” areas are clearly defined but landowners can introduce temporary closures on the grounds of health and safety, wildlife and conservation and sporting interests.

Even if an area is mapped, people will be prohibited from walking within 20 metres of a dwelling or in gardens or courtyards - unless a formal right of way already exists.

Arable land, mineral workings, railway embankments and airfields are also no-go areas, even if they fall within mapped boundaries.

In Suffolk the “right to roam” legislation includes areas at Sutton, Bromeswell, Snape, Westleton and Blythburgh in the east of the county and at Beck Row and Cavenham in the west.

Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council portfolio holder for roads and transport, said: “This additional access to the countryside is a huge boost to us all and I hope everyone will take advantage of this opportunity to have fun and improve their health at the same time.”

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