Green Brexit Could Increase Countryside Access, Reckons Cycling UK

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You might have noticed our ‘Get On My Land’ story about Cycling UK’s plans to improve off road and rural access for bikes, as they launched their new strategy at the London Bike Show.

Well, they liked our headline so much, they’ve used it in their new campaign, launched today, which is asking the public to support its response to the Government’s ‘Green Brexit’ consultation. In it they ask the Government to provide funding for farmers who make it easier for the public to enjoy their land. There’s a standard response for members of the public to submit – just click the link to access it, and there’s room for your own comments too if you wish.

Access all areas?

 

As the Government prepares for Brexit, it is looking to move away from the funding model established by the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). CAP currently provides direct payments to landowners based on the amount of land farmed. As an alternative the Government has proposed a new system of paying farmers “public money for public goods”, in the Department for Food and Rural Affair’s consultation ‘The future for food, farming and the environment’.

In response Cycling UK has also suggested public funding should not be provided to farmers and landowners who neglect their existing duty to keep rights of way, such as footpaths and bridleways, open and in a fit state. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this, as we wouldn’t want to see the unintended consequence of trail sterilisation being incentivised – something which has already be identified in the Cycling UK strategy.

Cycling UK’s position of improving access has drawn the support of some of the nation’s farmers, as Jeanette Simpson who works on Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking, Surrey said:

“We are located near a national trail, part of which cyclists have access to and which runs along the outskirts of Denbies, meaning both cyclists and walkers frequently come through our farm. So, if the Government were to link farming subsides to improvements and maintenance of the rights of way through our property, then we’d definitely welcome more visitors!”

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Head of Campaigns and Advocacy said:

“As the Government reconsiders how it will support our farmers in the years ahead, they’re presented with the golden opportunity not just to help our vibrant and important agriculture sector, but also to increase people’s enjoyment of our beloved countryside.

“Providing funding to improve our footpaths and bridleways will benefit all farmers great and small, and will ensure our future generations can learn and appreciate the importance of preserving this vital green space.

“Cycling UK sees increasing public access, particularly in the creation or restoration of connected routes as a public good, which farmers, visitors and local communities can benefit from and enjoy.”

Cycling UK sees this as a “golden opportunity” to improve access and create linked routes which will allow more people to experience the countryside and enjoy both the mental and physical health benefits that comes with its exploration.

“In England and Wales we’re at the mercy of our archaic and inconsistent rights of way classification,” commented Mr Dollimore. “One moment you’re on a bridleway and then a boundary is crossed and you’re on a footpath – all for no good reason. It’s confusing, and Cycling UK wants this to change – so people cycling can enjoy continuous legal routes.

Cycling UK says it’s not just landowners and visitors who would benefit from improved access. Rural communities could use the new off-road networks to access schools and shopping centres in local towns, without having to rely on public transport or private vehicles.

To date, with cycle product price rises blamed on Brexit, we’ve not seen much that makes Brexit look like a good thing for mountain biking. Could this be a green shoot? It’s certainly not an outcome we foresaw when we looked at the potential impact of Brexit on mountain biking.

To support Cycling UK’s Get On My Land campaign, click here.

Comments (4)

  1. Omg! The dreaded B word. Ducks head and runs for cover. . .

  2. The idea that the terrible level of access to the countryside in England and Wales is anything to do with the CAP and will all change after Brexit is nonsense. Scotland is in the same CAP.
    The only way Brexit will lead to better access is if it also includes legislation to nullify the outcome of the Battle of Hastings.

  3. To neilthewheel:

    You’re right that CAP isn’t to blame for the lack of Scottish-style access laws in England and Wales (see http://www.cyclinguk.org/campaigning/views-and-briefings/scotlands-land-reform-act-2003-and-outdoor-access-code).

    That’s not what Cycling UK is saying though! Our point is that a great deal of CAP funding amounts to nothing more than a subsidy for land ownership, without providing any public benefits (e.g. see https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/28/grouse-shooting-estates-shored-up-by-millions-in-subsidies, https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/golf-courses-farming-subsidies-allotments-michael-gove-environment-secretary-cap-eu-wealthy-a7853741.html and https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/eu-farming-subsidies-billionaires-high-uk-rich-list-recipients-brexit-james-dyson-earl-rosebery-cap-a7815871.html).

    One benefit of Brexit is the opportunity to direct this CAP funding so that it does provide benefits – and one of those benefits could be increased off-road access. What’s more, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has signed up to this laudable aim – see https://www.cyclinguk.org/blog/why-post-brexit-agricultural-policy-important-you-and-your-child-it-farmers.

    Cycling UK therefore wants to ensure that this funding delivers improved off-road access for people on bikes as well as those on foot or on horseback. That isn’t to say we wouldn’t also welcome changes to English rights of way law, such as those which we’re currently pressing for in Wales as part of our Trails for Wales campaign (and which the Welsh Government is now actively considering, see https://www.cyclinguk.org/campaign/trails-wales).

    But the redirecting of CAP subsidies presents an opportunity to work towards that goal. Let’s work together to seize it!

  4. There is a bit of a misconception that BPS just pays out for land ownership. There are a raft of requirements to comply with to establish claims – see cross compliance. Although the aim of the CAP reform/review that bought in SPS back in the mid 2000s was to de-couple subsidy payment from food production nevertheless the effect is still the same; in most cases it still subsidises production by keeping farming businesses going especially in those marginal areas (hill farms) which farm sheep and store cattle and where opportunities for diversification are limited or non-existent. Producing high quality food in the form of sheep and beef meat etc is still a ‘public good’ I would have thought. Similarly additional public access would cause additional problems in terms of managing bio-security. Many farms undergo the trauma that is routine TB testing with the consequences of a positive test being potentially ruinous. Farmers can better manage this risk when they can manage who comes and goes on their holding. Simply saying no access no payment isn’t going to work here without more layers of paperwork in what is already a very regulated industry.

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