Agriculture Bill

Written evidence submitted by Mrs Catriona Cook MBE (AB13)

Agriculture Bill: Provision for paying for Public Access as a Public Good

I have been a volunteer for some 35 years enhancing and protecting access for riders and drivers of horses, returning some 100 miles to the public domain for equestrians. We are also dairy farmers with every conceivable type of right of way across our farm. I have lived and ridden in seven different counties and ridden the length and breadth of the country.

Walkers have 100% of a fairly comprehensive rights of way network, Open Access to moors and open country, access to the beach and several long-distance trails. Riders have none of that and in many parishes have no off-road rights at all. The Labour government also removed equestrian’s historical rights to open country and beaches. Past countryside stewardship schemes have paid for permissive access which has all been withdrawn since the schemes stopped. Better use of that public money would have been to buy the land, dedicate the right of way which would have left a lasting network.

So, I would like to think that payment for public access would cover dedication of statutory restricted byways and bridleways which would benefit the health and wellbeing of this and all future generations. Once a comprehensive network of linear green gyms of bridleways was created then the adversarial nature of trying to increase public access would cease, and it would leave more public funds for any management problems.

Scarce public resources would give a better return if they were used to pay farmers for statutory byways and bridleways.

October 2018

 

Prepared 24th October 2018