Could Wales one day get a Scottish-style guarantee of responsible public access to all land? It's one of several proposals to improve and streamline access for outdoor recreation outlined in a new Welsh Government Green Paper, now open to public consultation. Everyone's invited to comment on the ideas, in what the BMC are calling a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity.
'We are lucky that we have miles of paths ...along with world renowned rock climbing and mountain biking' says Carl Sargeant AM, Welsh Minister For Natural Resources, in his intro to the consultation document.
'Outdoor activity not only provides benefits of healthy exercise and the opportunity to spend time with the family, it is also a big income generator for our economy.'
'Access to the outdoors for recreation is a key part of our natural resources policy.'
'It’s important that we can continue to meet current and future recreation needs. But we need to do this in ways that reduce the administrative burden on the local authorities who care for paths or the land owners and managers who sometimes need to reconcile farming and forestry needs with the demands of public access.'
'This is why I am pleased to publish this consultation on improving opportunities to access the outdoors for recreation. I’ve heard many views expressed about how the current system can be improved. This consultation gives you the opportunity to consider the proposals and to engage constructively in the discussion so that we can move towards creating a system of access to the outdoors that works best for Wales.'
The BMC have responded positively to the Welsh Government's consultation. However it is just the start, they say. Last year they launched their own access campaign, Open Wales, to highlight the public appetite for improved access. This had over 32,000 views on their website and received more than 4300 responses in support.
'The BMC welcomes this review and we look forward to engaging with and giving the views of our members to the Welsh Government on this important, once in a lifetime opportunity' says their Welsh Access and Conservation Officer Elfyn Jones.
'We have in the past raised a particular issue surrounding access to sea-cliffs. The CROW Act in 2000 opened up many areas of open country and gave a right of access to thousands of acres of land that previously could only be used at the discretion of the landowners. Wales has some truly amazing sea-cliffs but despite the CROW act, access for climbing on these cliffs is not as of right and ultimately and legally is down to the landowners' discretion. Similarly many of the outcrops traditionally used for climbing lie outside open access land and access for climbing could be withdrawn at any time.'
'The BMC is setting up a small working group to discuss the questions raised in the consultation and the BMC response will be published by the end of August.'
'There will be further information on how hill-walkers, climbers and mountaineers can support the BMC in due course - watch this space!'