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Environmental Land Management Schemes

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 170767, tabled on 21 March 2023

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether her Department is taking steps to (a) support and (b) require landowners to (i) undertake repairs to (A) footpaths, (B) stiles, (C) gates and (D) other rights of way and (ii) improve public access to the countryside under Environmental Land Management schemes.

Answered on

27 March 2023

The Government supports the health and wellbeing benefits that access to the countryside can bring, including improving physical and mental health and supporting local communities and economies.

Landowners have a statutory duty to keep public rights of way in good working order and therefore this is not covered by Environmental Land Management Schemes, unless they choose to upgrade to provide additional access, e.g. from a stile to a gate via under Countryside Stewardship (option AC1).

Under Countryside Stewardship, we currently pay for the following actions to help improve public access to the countryside:

  • Farmers hosting tours of their farms for school pupils and care farming visitors (ED1)
  • Providing access maps and signage, and preparing sites for access by providing toilet facilities, shelters, new footpaths, bridges and gates, with the objective of greater public accessibility of the countryside (AC1)
  • Accreditation for staff carrying out countryside educational access visits (AC2)
  • A supplement to enable permissive access across woodland, where access is currently limited (WS4)

Public access is also supported by our Landscape Recovery scheme, with projects being assessed for the benefits they will deliver for a wide range of objectives. Under the England Woodland Creation Offer, higher payments are available if woodland is located close to settlements within the 40% most deprived areas in England, or if it will provide new long-term permissive access for recreation.

Additionally, through our Farming in Protected Landscapes programme, we provide funding to support and improve Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks. We pay for projects providing opportunities for people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape and its cultural heritage, including permissive access.

We do want to offer further support for access to our countryside, and so under our Environmental Land Management Schemes we are also now exploring how we can pay for:

  • New permissive access
  • Managing existing access pressures on land and water
  • Expanding educational access beyond groups of school pupils and care farming visitors