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Improving Access to the Outdoors 20/02/2014

A British Mountaineering Council (BMC) delegation will today highlight the benefits of extending and simplifying access laws for the Welsh coastline and countryside, when it welcomes the Welsh Minister for Culture & Sport, John Griffiths, to South Stack.

The BMC hopes that the Minister's visit to Anglesey, jointly hosted with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), will give him a first-hand opportunity to see the problems with existing legislation and the potential benefits of a new approach. South Stack is highly popular with walkers, rock climbers and bird watchers.

While the RSPB, which manages much of the land, allows climbing on the sea cliffs, access is not secured through law and neighbouring landowners are not so obliging.

As well being shown the areas where good co-operation and access takes place, the Minister will also be shown examples of areas where access to the coast is prohibited and where the Wales Coastal Path is forced to divert inland onto a busy public road.

Elfyn Jones, BMC Access Officer for Wales, said: “We welcome this opportunity to show the Minister a practical example of how access rights could be simplified and extended for the benefit of Welsh residents and visitors whilst respecting the rights of landowners and conservation interests. Responsible recreation and conservation have been proven to go hand-in-hand and we will be demonstrating this today.”

The BMC would like to see:
  • Permanent access to sea cliffs, similar to the right of access to crags currently enjoyed on open access land under CRoW.
  • Reduced occupier’s liability across the board for all recreational pursuits.
  • Access to more land on which there are physical features of interest to climbers where access poses no threat to conservation or the privacy of local residents.
The dramatic sea cliffs at South Stack and Gogarth Bay near Holyhead provide some of the most adventurous and challenging sea cliff climbing in the world, attracting thousands of climbers each year to experience their sheer delights. Above them walkers enjoy the airy cliff tops and open spaces along the coastal corridor.

Many of the cliffs and surrounding habitat are important conservation sites for rare and legally-protected birds such as peregrine falcons and the chough. Managed as a nature reserve by the RSPB, the venue is an exemplar to demonstrate how climbing and conservation can co-exist, with well-developed agreements between the conservation body and the BMC. As part of the voluntary agreements climbers avoid certain cliffs when nesting birds are present.

In July last year, the Welsh Government announced a review of access and outdoor recreation legislation and a green paper consultation - preliminary report of Government proposals published in order to provoke discussion - is due out shortly.

Last month, the BMC launched their Open Wales campaign calling on the Welsh Government to extend and simplify access to the coast and countryside for responsible recreation. It is also asking those who support this idea to visit the BMC website and pledge their support by clicking on a button at the foot of the page.

Topic: Outdoor Access in Wales, Open Wales.

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