3. “Improving Opportunities to Access the Outdoors for Responsible Recreation”: Summary of Consultation Responses –
The consultation on Improving Opportunities to Access the Outdoors for Responsible recreation consultation ran from 10th July, 2015 to 2nd October, 2015. The consultation examined the current legislative framework for access to the outdoors for recreation in Wales and explored options for change. The paper drew from the evidence gathered during the earlier review (2014) and encouraged discussion on a sliding scale of potential options, including:
◆ Reform procedures – making improvements to the administration of current access legislation;
◆ Remove restrictions – removing some of the restrictions on the range of activities that can take place on rights of way and access land;
◆ Revise access – extending the definition of access land to include other areas; and
◆ New rights and responsibilities – implementing an entirely new access settlement, which allows much greater use of land for responsible recreation.
These were not fixed proposals and were to be considered as illustrative of the types of changes that could be implemented.
No decisions had been made on whether any changes should be taken forward. The key aim of the consultation was to gather information and views from people about how potential improvements to the legislative system could impact future demand for outdoor recreation; and their potential impact on land and water concerns, including existing users, land managers and the natural environment.
Fourteen questions covered a range of issues, including access to land, water and the coast.
The consultation responses provided a wealth of information about the types of recreational activities occurring across Wales (and beyond). They also provided an insight into the challenges sometimes faced by land managers, farmers and other commercial interests. The consultation generated strong and sometimes polarised views about the current system of access to the outdoors and of how this might be improved.
There were 5,796 responses to the consultation, including 22 responses to the youth version issued simultaneously. 165 of these responses arrived after the closing date but the comments have been taken into account.
The Forum received a written summary of the views received using the Welsh Government’s response template and the non-template electronic and hard copy responses. Responses received to the youth version of the consultation and using templates issued by outside organisations were included separately in the report to the Forum.
Referring to reference on page 3 to the possibility of introducing fixed penalties and / or the inclusion of Public Rights of Way in cross-compliance measures for farm subsidies, Mr. Traherne considered it would concentrate farmers’ minds if such penalties existed. Mr. Teague responded that such a provision was already in place in England. However, the consultation exercise had suggested that, as far as Wales was concerned, Definitive Maps were not sufficiently up to date to facilitate the introduction of such a provision. Mr. Traherne felt there to be a “lack of joined up government” on the part of the Welsh Government in this respect.
Mr. Coleman asked for an indication as to the timescale which would apply in relation to the overall exercise. Mr. Teague suggested it was currently open to interpretation and it was likely that the Welsh Government’s legislative programme following the recent elections would be the determining factor. Mr. Pittard referred to recent guidance issued by Natural Resources Wales, albeit there was no guarantee that this would be cleared by the Minister. Mr. Teague also alluded to the existence of draft ROWIP guidance.
There was a general acceptance amongst Forum Members that progress should be made in terms of the above and to facilitating the relevant legislation to update PROW legislation.
AGREED – T H A T Cabinet be requested to agree that the relevant Cabinet Member write to the Minister urging progress on this matter, including giving priority to the updating of Public Rights of Way legislation.