C.R.O.W. Act access forums are
encouraged by the Kennel Club
On the 15 November 2001, representatives of the Kennel Club met with the Countryside Agency - the organisation responsible for mapping land in preparation for the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act when it becomes law in 2005. The meeting was arranged as a direct result of enquiries received by the Kennel Club from concerned dog owners, worried about the implications that this Act might have on their right to roam with their dogs in the countryside.
The meeting was constructive and it became apparent that it is in dog owner's interests to form liaison groups that will then be able to apply to join Local Access Forums to be organised by local authorities throughout the country. These statutory bodies will advise on improving public access to land in their area for all types of open air recreation and views will be taken into account before decisions are made.
It is envisaged that these Forums will consist of local interest groups which might include dog owners, landowners, land managers and ramblers, so that discussion can take place and concerns aired. This will therefore be the route into the consultation process for concerned dog owners.
Whilst the Countryside Agency will be applying the CROW Act, it does not possess discretionary powers, although it falls within the remit of the Agency to advise landowners on how to best interpret the CROW Act. As there is a great deal of mapping to do throughout England and Wales, the process will take a minimum of four years.
To date the South East and North West regions have been mapped, and the draft maps for these regions and further information can be found at: www.countryside.gov.uk/access.
These draft maps will remain under public consultation until February 2002, and everyone has the opportunity to comment in writing. After this consultation phase, a report will be drafted to show what action has been taken by the Agency and a provisional draft map will then be produced, which in turn will be finalised before becoming law.
These draft maps will also be made available for public inspection via local authorities and Parish Councils, so the Countryside Agency recommends that interested parties make use of both the website and their local authorities to be kept abreast of developments.
Said a representative from the Countryside Agency, "It is important to note that dog owners have nothing to fear from the CROW Act, as it will not take away any rights that we all currently enjoy today. In fact, rights will be expanded, giving people a new right to walk over large areas of open countryside and common land, but we all have a part to play in preparing for the new access arrangements and making sure that they work well on the ground."
Caroline Kisko, KC Secretary concluded, "Whilst there does appear to be a trend for more and more restrictions on dogs and their owners, it seems that dog owners will have the opportunity to consult with their local authorities prior to the Act coming into force. In light of this, the Kennel Club strongly recommends that owners form official groups, agree policy, and then make their voices heard in the local access forums. By so doing, they will play a part in ensuring that the local authority is aware of their concerns and liaison can be assured."
Finally, readers may be aware of the successful New Forest campaign co-ordinated by 'NFDOG', a group of Hampshire dog owners and residents who became concerned in July about restrictions being placed on dog walkers in the New Forest by the Forestry Commission. For further information and advice on setting up your own local dog owner's group, visit their website at: www.newforestdog.org.uk.
For more about the CROW Act 2000 and its effects on access and rights of way, see the Agency's web pages and/or e-mail: email@example.com or ring the access enquiry line on 01242-533439.