The first draft maps of proposed right to roam areas were published yesterday and some farmers have already gone on the attack despite the fact that the draft maps are open to consultation until February, with no actual changes in access restrictions until 2005.
John Lees of the Peak Park Moorland Owners and Tenants Association has already stated that “It is a grave discourtesy that these people haven’t been informed before”, though seeing as the maps have only just been finished it’s hard to wonder how they could have been told sooner.
These narrow minded agricultural tub thumpers seem to be quick to forget the amazing level of responsibility shown by countryside users during the foot and mouth restrictions. Now we hear people firing off all the old horror predictions of what the right to roam proposals will result in, packs of unleashed dogs tearing apart fluffy lambs, mountains of litter etc. The same voices are also saying that many people have no respect for the country code, and that opening up routes under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 will leave them with damage to property and livestock.
The complaining property owners have also rounded on the government for releasing the maps on the ‘townie friendly’ internet, though again they seem to be ignoring the fact that maps are on display in local libraries and as part of a touring ‘roadshow’.
The government is happy to admit that areas may well have been wrongly designated on these first drafts, and are encouraging feedback, hence the period of consultation until February.
To make sure that it’s not just a few farmers trying to shove us off every acre they can, we suggest that anyone with local knowledge of the ‘Lower North West’ (Lancashire, Chesire, Derbyshire, West Yorkshire) and South Eastern (Kent, Sussex, Surrey and South London) regions heads for www.countryside.gov.uk to check out the maps and try and increase rather than decrease opened areas.