Public access is a public good

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU means that a replacement to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) needs to be developed - the replacement will be published this year (2018) in the form of the Agriculture Bill. Agricultural land makes up 70% of the UK, so the new policy will have a significant impact on the quality of our environment, our ability to access the countryside and the state of our path network.

The issue

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the EU’s agricultural policy, and it governs a system of payments which support the work of farmers.

The maintenance and enhancement of the path network in the UK is supported by the management of these payments. Cross-compliance, a set of rules outlining what is expected of recipients of direct payments, includes a requirement that farmers comply with their existing legal duties in relation to the maintenance of rights of way. The CAP has in the past also played a role in enhancing the path network through additional payments to farmers in return for the creation of new permissive routes.

In the 2017 Queen’s Speech, the government announced its intention to publish an Agriculture Bill which will seek to provide stability to farmers and protect the natural environment for future generations. An overarching principle which is shaping future policy, and which the Ramblers wholeheartedly support, is the concept of public payment for public access.

In advance of the Agriculture Bill, the government has published its command paper, Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit. This is a critical milestone in the development of future policy as it will set the direction of the key parts of the new Agriculture Bill.

Our position

The Ramblers recognises that agricultural production is one of the most important activities taking place in the countryside, and that some public investment will be required to support the industry when the UK leaves the EU. This investment must however deliver benefits for wider society, including improved maintenance of existing paths and enhancements to the network.

Improved maintenance of existing paths:

  • To receive payments from the public purse, farmers must demonstrate compliance with their existing legal duties relating to the maintenance of public rights of way. Where farmers are found to be in breach of these duties, deductions should be made from the payments they receive.

Enhancements to the path network:

  • Additional funding should be made available to farmers who provide new paths or make improvements to existing routes, beyond the statutory minimum. Investment should be prioritised where new routes are needed most, with adequate promotion to ensure these routes are well-used.


We believe these principles will help ensure that our precious path network is better maintained, with farmers encouraged to fulfil their legal responsibilities and rewarded for improvements they make for walkers. Our vision will also help ensure that the public reconnect with nature and better understand the agriculture industry and the vital work undertaken by farmers.


Path protectors

Meet our path protectors

From walkers to photographers to micro adventurers, find out why people want to keep paths open, and let us know why you want to protect paths.

Write to your MP

Become a path protector

Write to your MP and join us in calling for an Agriculture Bill that protects and enhances public rights of way.