If a Balloonist lands a hot air balloon on your land, damaging a tree, demolishing a fence and squashing crops in the process, is he a trespasser ? If the local hunt saboteurs lay a false trail or blow horns to distract the hounds, are they trespassers ? A study of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 which received Royal Assent on 30 November 2000 suggests that the answer to both questions could be "no" once the provisions of the Act relating to countryside access ("the right to roam") come into force.
The Act, which comprises 104 sections and 16 schedules is divided into five parts. The first part deals with the right to roam and is the subject of this article. The other four parts deal with amendments to the law relating to public rights of way and road traffic (part 2), nature conservation and wildlife protection (part 3), areas of outstanding natural beauty (part 4) and various miscellaneous matters such as the creation of local access forum and town and village greens (part 5) and will be the subject of subsequent articles.
The provisions in the Act on the right to roam will not come into effect in England and Wales until an order is made by the Secretary of State (in England) or the National Assembly (in Wales). The current estimate is that this will occur in 2005. The reason for the delay is that it is necessary to prepare "definitive" maps showing the land over which the public is to have access. The duty of preparing these maps rests with the Countryside Agency (in England) and the Countryside Council for Wales (in Wales) with effect from 31 January 2001. Once the provisional maps have been produced (and representations may be made by anyone as to which piece of land should be included or excluded) the maps will be confirmed by the relevant agency but will then be subject to appeal by any person having an interest in any land appearing on the map. The appeal will be dealt with either at a hearing or a public enquiry in a manner similar to the existing procedure for rights of way appeals and the same rules about the production of evidence and award of costs will apply. Once appeals have been dealt with, the map will be conclusive but must be kept under review not more than once every ten years. On review, land can either be added to or removed from the map as access land.
Land will be included on a map if it is "open country" or registered common land. Such land will be known as "Access land". Access land also includes land...