THE WELSH GOVERNMENT is consulting on an open access charter, which it claims would improve access to the outdoors for recreational use. While the National Sheep Association recognises the importance and significant benefits of everyone being able to enjoy the countryside, NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker believes there is already enough opportunity for the general public to do this.
He says: “Since 2005 there has been a threefold increase in land available for recreation, including open access and statutory and voluntary pathways. The problem is that much of this access is unused or poorly understood. “Farmers have been encouraged to invest in providing access and countryside activities, as a means of diversification to protect against market volatility. To undermine this investment, when it is not being fully utilised, is unnecessary; better promotion of land that’s already open for access should be the priority.”
Fearing the Welsh Government may push legislation through ahead of the Welsh Assembly elections in May, NSA is concerned that all associated issues have not been given proper consideration. Mr Stocker continues: “Open access to land presents many problems to existing and legitimate land management and farming activities. Sheep worrying by dogs, the spread of parasites via un-wormed dogs, gates being left open, erosion of sensitive habitats and disruption to nesting birds – these are all serious problems which will inevitably increase if open access to the Welsh countryside is granted.”