The joint meeting was facilitated by Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Farmers Union Wales (FUW) and the National Farmers Union Cymru (NFU Cymru) and the CLA to raise awareness of the current liability that landowners have with regards to the public accessing CROW land and public rights of way, managing those risks, the duty of care required by landowners to people accessing their land and best practice in regards to land management. There was also the opportunity to hear from the Welsh Government about the current review of access legislation in regard to land and water that is being carried out to inform a public consultation that will open in the next few months.
Ed Evans, Member Champion for Agriculture for Brecon Beacons National Park Authority chaired the event and hoped it would lead to further opportunities for greater engagement with the farming community
and partnerships between the facilitating organisations. He said: “Visitors to the National Park provide huge benefits to the area, but the attendance at this meeting highlighted the concern within the farming community about some of the difficulties it can sometimes cause them, and they
sent a clear message that they do not support increasing the extent of access.
Finding the right balance is a challenge for all. This was an excellent
opportunity for farmers to find out more about the law on public liability, the work of the National Park Wardens, and to hear first-hand about the Welsh Government’s plans before the consultation period is announced.
“It’s important for us to support our farming communities and we plan to hold further meetings of this nature later during the year in order to bring important information into the heart of the rural community.”
Glasnant Morgan, NFU Cymru Brecon and Radnor County Chairman said, “We are very grateful to Brecon Beacons National Park Authority
for arranging a meeting to discuss access. NFU Cymru’s view is that creating more access opportunities, without funds to ensure it is managed properly, is the worst possible outcome for users, owners and occupiers of private land. Poor management of visitors to these areas leads to unnecessary problems for those that farm and manage the land. In the past we have seen more access created but no money to maintain it in a useable condition. Better access should not necessarily mean more access. We feel priority should be given to ensuring that adequate funds are allocated to the long term maintenance and updating of the current network.”
Aled Jones, Brecon and Radnor FUW County Executive Officer, said “Members found the meeting to be very informative with the Welsh Government’s Green Paper out for consultation sometime this year. Access is an issue which causes much concern in the farming community with blanket opposition to the creation of ‘presumed access rights’ to farmed land and waterways. Whilst there were some positive aspects discussed such as the review of current legislation to make the diversion of rights of way less cumbersome and the issue of dogs in the countryside for example. The FUW believes that any review of access provision should be demand led and undertaken in partnership with farmers and landowners to reduce conflict and to enhance the experience of those who visit the countryside.”
Harry Legge-Bourke, local landowner and Board Member for Natural Resources Wales said: “Much of the rural economy in Wales is based upon tourism, and we as landowners and farmers must not bite the hand that feeds us, however there is a balance to be had on access. The State of Nature Report has shown scientifically that much of our land and seascape is failing. What we must do is find solutions that enhance and protect these ‘at risk areas’, which of course are the best known areas for visitors and balance the approach of opening up the countryside with good laws and good management. It is important for a ‘ joint’ departmental approach within Welsh Government, in order to allow the people of urban and rural Wales, tourists and visitors to have access to the countryside in Wales, for business, recreation and health, but however good the intentions of ‘open access’ this must not be at the risk of damaging farm businesses, fragile rivers and upland ecological systems. We do not have half of Scotland’s’ open and wild country. Natural Resources Wales is opening up more
and more of the land and forests over the coming years and there are already 1000s of miles of footpath and bridleways in Wales that are not used by tourists and the public – even on their doorstep. I would urge everyone who was at the meeting to respond to the Green Paper Consultation when it is made available as it is vital for Welsh Government officials and The Minister to see and understand the views of all present so they can make an informed decision on the legislation.”
Charles De Winton, Rural Surveyor for The CLA said: “The meeting was a useful opportunity to look into the current legal liability afforded by landowners to people coming onto their land be it authorised or not. It was quite clear from the reaction of the audience many farmers and landowners were unaware of their legal responsibilities. The meeting also looked at possible future Welsh Government proposals which will affect landowning interests and may have major implications. I am grateful to the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority for hosting such an informative event, I very much hope this is the first of many such events which is a great opportunity for the Authority to actively engage with its rural constituents.”