Restrictions placed on open access land

RESTRICTIONS are being introduced over areas of East Anglia where open access was established for the public as part of the Government's right to roam legislation.

By David Green

RESTRICTIONS are being introduced over areas of East Anglia where open access was established for the public as part of the Government's right to roam legislation.

The restrictions, to protect uncommon ground-nesting birds such as the woodlark, nightjar and the rare stone curlew, are being introduced in some heathland areas by the Countryside Agency after applications from the RSPB, the National Trust, English Nature, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and individual landowners.

Under the right to roam legislation the public was given open access to heathland in public and private ownership.


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However, local authorities and, in certain cases, landowners were given the right to apply for temporary restrictions - for conservation and other specified purposes.

Two wardens, funded by the Countryside Agency, are being employed in Suffolk to give advice to members of the public and monitor the effectiveness of the restrictions along the Suffolk coast and in the Brecks.

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On the most sensitive sites, no public access is being allowed until October 31.

On other sites dogs must be kept on short, fixed leads until August 31 and across all heathlands all dogs have to be kept on leads until July 31, unless they are on a public right of way.

Notices setting out details of the restrictions have already been erected in the affected areas which include large parts of Dunwich Heath and the Minsmere bird reserve and the Brecks.

Malcolm Farrow, communications officer with the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Unit, which looks after the 150 square miles of the nationally designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, said: “Open access brings great opportunities to explore the sandling heaths but these historic heathlands hold nationally important breeding populations of woodlark and nightjar so it's vital that any restrictions are respected.

“We warmly welcome open access as we believe everyone should have the chance to enjoy these wonderful heathlands.

“But with the new rights come responsibilities and I hope visitors will understand the need for restrictions and respect them.”

John Andrews, Suffolk Ramblers spokesman, said the organisation was aware of the situation and had been in discussions with the conservation bodies.

“We have some concerns about the extent of the restrictions but we are watching the situation during this first year to see how things go,” he said.

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