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.
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.
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