The CLA has written to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer calling on him to scrap his promise of an English Right to Roam Act in the event of a Labour government.
The Labour Party announced its plans in January 2023, despite having no meaningful engagement with landowners or farming groups on the subject.
Now the CLA has written to Sir Keir, arguing that the policy will have unknown consequences for nature, farming and public safety.
CLA President Mark Tufnell said:
“Labour has, without consultation, promised to give the public unrestricted access to virtually all rural land, ignoring the need for such land to be protected for the purposes of food production, natural habitats and the vast array of environmental projects being undertaken by landowners. Put simply, this act feels entirely incompatible with Sir Keir’s claim that Labour is becoming the party of the countryside.
“We already have a fine network of public access. 140,000 miles of public footpaths exist in England and Wales, as well as 3.5m acres of public access land and significantly more in permissive access."
Labour should work with us to explore how we might better promote this existing network to those who quite rightly seek access to the countryside, but ensuring it is done in a way that does not damage the landscape.
“Labour did not commission any ecological studies in the development of its policy, so the truth is that they have no idea what impact it will have on nature. To the best of our knowledge no studies have been done on the impact on public safety, despite people dying from cattle attacks every year. How many more wildfires will there be? How many more sheep will be attacked by dogs? What damage will be done to crops? As far as I can see, Labour adopted this policy because it’s fashionable among some of their voter base, but without really looking into the consequences at all.”
The CLA commissioned polling in 2022 shows that the public is sceptical about the need of a right to roam. In the poll, undertaken by Opinium, 69% of the public felt walkers should stick to the footpaths and areas of access land, whereas 21% were in favour of a right to roam.
Mark Tufnell added:
“We all know that groups of political campaigners can make a lot of noise, but the public at large have a great deal of common sense and know that a right to roam is a step too far. Everybody loves the countryside, and we want to make sure they have a warm welcome. On that basis, we invite Sir Keir to work more collaboratively with the rural community to ensure the public can access nature safely and responsibly.”