The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Cabinet Meeting: 30 November, 2015
Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration
Access and Outdoor Recreation Green Paper Consultation Response
Purpose of the Report
To seek Cabinet retrospectively endorsement for a response on behalf of the Council to the Access and Outdoor Recreation Green Paper issued by the Welsh Government.
That Cabinet retrospectively endorses the response (Appendix B) to the Welsh Government Green Paper 'Improving Opportunities To Access The Outdoors For Responsible Recreation'.
Reasons for the Recommendations
The response has been submitted to the Welsh Government within its published timescale and was submitted with a caveat on the front of the consultation response form advising that it was subject to endorsement by the Cabinet.
There are approximately 581 kilometres of public rights of way in the Vale of Glamorgan including:
520 km of footpaths
38 km of bridleways
23 km of restricted byways
In addition to these, opportunities for outdoor recreation can also be found in areas accessible to the public such as commons, country parks and beaches (by permission of owners).
The health, social, and economic benefits of outdoor recreation, whether walking, cycling, horse riding or enjoying nature have been promoted by the Welsh Government for over 10 years and significant progress has been made towards these aims, including provision of the Wales Coast Path.
User groups, landowners, and local authorities have however suggested to the Welsh Government that the current legislation does not effectively facilitate or regulate outdoor recreation activities. The legislation is perceived to be out-dated, disjointed, burdensome to administer, and often difficult for the public to comprehend.
Some user groups express frustration at the restrictive nature of current rules which cater predominantly for walkers and to a far lesser extent for horse riders and cyclists.
Landowners are reportedly frustrated by the complex and costly procedures related to public rights of way and the ambiguity around the regulation of certain activities or irresponsible behaviour.
Many local authorities which have primary responsibility for administering the current process have indicated that reform of the administrative arrangements is overdue. The costs and associated procedures impede delivering path networks that are fit for purpose.
Welsh Government has therefore sought views and opinions on proposals to improve opportunities to access the outdoors for responsible recreation in order to explore the potential for simpler more integrated legislation on access to the outdoors and public rights of way. It has done this via a Green Paper entitled 'Improving opportunities to access the outdoors for responsible recreation'.
Relevant Issues and Options
The Green Paper consultation sought responses on 14 questions relating to improving opportunities for outdoor recreation and reforming access legislation.
The questions covered:
The principles that should guide reform,
Existing problems with legislation,
Suggestions to revise or improve existing legislation,
Suggestions to expand or reform the existing access settlement,
Suggestions to entirely replace the existing access settlement with a more open framework, and
Discussions around the introduction of a code of conduct for users
A copy of the consultation document can be seen in Appendix A and a copy of the preliminary response made on behalf of the Council can be seen in Appendix B.
The preliminary response took into account views raised by the Local Access Forum, a statutory local body made up of individuals with an interest in access to the outdoor environment, facilitated by the Council.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
The options presented within the Green Paper vary highly in scope and extent. Should any of the options be enacted there would be resource implications for the Authority. The response issued has made clear that it is the view of the Council that no additional burdens should be placed on Authorities without appropriate accompanying resources to implement them.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
The principles proposed within the Green Paper support sustainable transport modes.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
There is no statutory requirement to respond to the consultation.
The Green Paper seeks views on prospective legal changes. Whilst there are no legal implications in endorsing the response to the paper it should be acknowledged that the consultation forms part of a review of the statutory framework governing outdoor access and that this process may lead to changes in the law.
Crime and Disorder Implications
The consultation seeks views on a broad range of options for recreational access and for a code of conduct to address disorderly behaviour. Implications for crime are inherent within certain reforms which would alter the existing framework to make activities lawful or unlawful. The response makes representations to improve enforcement procedures and cautions against including enforcement provisions within a code of conduct if they cannot be properly discharged.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
The principles of the consultation seek to increasing engagement and participation in outdoor recreation and as such have positive implications for equal opportunities.
The aims of the consultation align closely to the vision for the Vale of Glamorgan contained within the corporate plan which seeks to achieve a County:
That is safe, clean and attractive, where individuals and communities have sustainable opportunities to improve their health, learning and skills, prosperity and wellbeing; and
Where there is a strong sense of community in which local groups and individuals have the capacity and incentive to make an effective contribution to the future sustainability of the area.
Policy Framework and Budget
This is a matter to for Executive decision.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
Consultation was carried out with the Local Access Forum prior to submitting the response.
As this report relates to the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan no Ward Members have been consulted.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
Economy and Environment.
Gwyn Teague, Public Rights of Way Officer
Operational Manager, Regeneration
Operational Manager, Accountancy
Legal (Committee Reports)
Rob Thomas - Managing Director