Thank you for writing to me regarding the right to roam campaign in Wales.
As you know, in Wales everyone has a right over ‘access land’ under the Countryside Rights of Way Act. On this land the public can walk and undertake certain types of recreation including running, bird watching and climbing. One fifth of Wales is currently mapped as ‘access land’.
Our countryside is of great importance, and I appreciate the benefits that right to roam has on personal freedom and enjoyment, as well as all the economic, social and environmental benefits.
However, we must consider the significant impacts that the expansion of right to roam will have on farmers and their business. The greatest complaints the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) receive from landowners relates to litter, which is left behind, damage to boundaries, gates left open, and general damage to the wider environment caused by members of the public. In Wales, the NFU Mutual estimates farm animals worth £438,536 were severely injured or killed by dogs in 2022, this is a rise of 15.5% in cost compared to 2021.
Whilst I agree there are many benefits to the public having open access to land in Wales, we must also consider the fact that such agricultural land is also a business and a fragile ecosystem which needs to be preserved. Instead of the expansion to open access land, the land currently covered should be maintained and more accessible to the public.
Support should be offered to farmers to cut overgrown footpaths, and to replace kissing gates which do not currently allow for disabled access through the paths. There are already thousands of footpaths and public rights of way crossing the countryside and this provides ample opportunities for people to access nature, and farmers and landowners should be supported in making these routes as accessible as possible.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me,