Countryside access curbs in England ‘cost six times’ Scotland’s right to roam | Access to green space

England’s model for countryside access cost six times more to implement than Scotland’s right to roam policy, new figures reveal.

In England, only 8% of the countryside is open for walking, picnicking and other outdoor activities. This includes footpaths, the coastal path, mountains, moors, heaths and downs. In Scotland, all of the countryside is open for access as long as guidelines are followed such as leaving no trace and not harming farmland.

Official figures analysed by the Right to Roam campaign reveal that implementing the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (Crow) cost about £69m over the course of a five-year parliament. By comparison, statistics published by the Scottish government show that implementing the access provisions in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 cost only £11m over the same length of time.

The reason Crow cost so much to put in place was because it granted people access only to certain landscape types: mountains, moorland, heaths, downs and commons. This meant civil servants had to spend five years and millions of pounds mapping those landscapes, and then responding to thousands of appeals from landowners disputing the maps.

It was much cheaper to implement the Scottish laws, which exempted only private gardens and fields where crops were growing.

Guy Shrubsole from the Right to Roam campaign, who uncovered the figures, said: “When Labour was last in power in both England and Scotland, it expanded the public’s access to nature in both nations – but it chose a more sensible and cost-effective approach in Scotland. Not only do Scots enjoy a far better system of access rights than we do in England, it was also cheaper to implement.

“Rather than spend millions of pounds on a piecemeal extension of the Crow Act, the next government should learn from Scotland’s experience and legislate for a right of responsible access to the majority of England’s countryside. The money saved can be spent instead on public education campaigns and local access rangers to ensure roaming is done responsibly.”

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No major political party is expected to have a right to roam policy in its manifesto. Labour initially committed to a Scottish-style right to roam but made a U-turn after pressure from landowners.

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