Access to public land should benefit everyone | Walking

It seems Keir Starmer has joined a long list of England-based politicians who refuse to learn anything from Scotland (Labour U-turns on promise of Scottish-style right to roam in England, 25 October). Lobbying by oversubsidised farmers is again driving England to the bottom of the European league for public access to land and water.

Starmer needs to remember that Scotland’s public access rights were delivered by a Labour-Lib Dem coalition government in 2003. Twenty subsequent years have demonstrated that it works, for the benefit of both land managers and the wider public. And his prospective chancellor needs to decide if a good proportion of the current enormous agricultural subsidies should be transferred to local authorities and Natural England. They can deliver far better value for money in terms of public access benefits, climate change mitigation and more biodiversity in our countryside. A Labour-Lib Dem UK government might therefore be our best option, for everyone who enjoys the outdoors in England and greater contact with nature.
Dave Morris
Kinross, Perth and Kinross

There are more effective ways to increase public access to England’s countryside than a Scottish-style right to roam, which it’s clear would be unpopular with rural voters. The first would be generous payments to farmers and landowners for the creation of greenway routes, through the new environmental land management schemes.

The second would be to increase the budgets of local authorities’ rights-of-way departments. In East Sussex they’re faced with hundreds of issues that need addressing to improve public access, and minimal resources to do so. We have 25,000 miles of bridleways in Britain which, with little funding, could be improved to create a rural network of green “superhighways” for walkers and cyclists. Let’s work with what we’ve already got first.
Nick Hanna
Chair, Sussex Greenways

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