A landmark proposal to bring Scottish style open access to Wales has been shelved by the Welsh Government despite responses to a consultation being overwhelmingly in favour. It's a serious blow to what could have opened up a huge amount of rights of way for cyclists and other user groups.
The consultation was opened up in order to gauge feeling towards the Welsh Governments own suggestion of creating single-status rights-of-way – effectively allowing cycling on most footpaths - amongst other things. According to Open MTB, which campaigns for better mountain bike access, there were around over 17,000 responses in total, with more than 70 per cent backing the plan.
However, Welsh Minister for Environment Hannah Blythyn has now said: “There were strong but differing views on how best to reform access legislation. We, therefore, believe that now is not the right time for substantive reform.”
In a statement, Open MTB had this to say: "Not only does the Welsh Government's decision ignore the huge demand for change in a country that – in places – is particularly poorly served with legitimate MTB routes, it also ignores the huge contribution that active tourism already makes to the Welsh economy and the potential for growth in the sector, as well as the general health benefits that would accrue from improved access.
"We are awaiting more detailed feedback from the WG as to why it has disregarded a landslide in favour of its own proposals, with mountain bikers making up the bulk of the largest-ever response to a consultation by the administration.
"In the wake of his disappointment we are determined to continue to push for access reform in Wales as well as in England – and we hope to continue to harness the impressive determination and focus shown by the mountain biking community during this campaign."
Though it's now very unlikely that access reform will happen in Wales within the immediate future, it's not quite the end of the battle yet, however. As Britain leaves the EU, there will be a large number of regulatory needs for land management, with a “Brexit and our Land” consultation document scheduled for publication in early July. Hopefully, this will shed a bit more light on how the fight for open access should proceed. Fingers crossed eh?
You might also like: