Trespass proposals could be ‘thin end of the wedge’ for walkers

The Ramblers is calling on the government to rethink plans to change trespass laws, amid concerns that the moves could have the unintended consequences of eroding walkers’ rights and deterring people from visiting the countryside.  

In the autumn, the Home Office opened a consultation, which is closing on 4 March, about strengthening police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments. The Conservative Party general election manifesto reiterated this commitment and their intention to ‘criminalise intentional trespass’.

Trespass is currently a civil wrong and criminalisation would be a major change in the law - and one that could have a significant impact on walkers. 

Gemma Cantelo, head of policy and advocacy at the Ramblers, said: ‘We’re worried that these proposals are the thin edge of a wedge, which could result in an erosion of people’s rights to access and enjoy the countryside.’ 

‘It’s vital that the access rights that the Ramblers and others have fought for over the years are protected. A reported 84% of police forces do not support the criminalisation of unauthorised encampments, so this seems like a sledgehammer approach to policymaking. Government’s priority should be to make it easier for people to get outside and enjoy the benefits of walking and nature – that’s good for our health and the planet.’

Gemma added: ‘We encourage walkers worried about their right to access to the outdoors to make their concerns known to the Home Office. It’s critical that these proposals do not have a detrimental impact for walkers – concerns the Ramblers will be raising with government. Today, we’ve published our planned consultation response on the Ramblers website to help walkers consider their own response.’

As an organisation, the Ramblers exists to protect people’s ability to enjoy the benefits and sense of freedom that come from being outdoors on foot and we oppose any measures that would deter people from exercising their rights to access the outdoors. Walkers may have to leave a footpath to get past an obstruction, may stray from the right of way by accident, or may have sincerely held beliefs that they have a right of way; walking in the countryside should not put you at risk of committing a crime.

Read the Ramblers’ planned response to the consultation.

Ferial Etherington

I support the ability to walk in the countryside. It's good for health and well-being and is in accord with the Government's own policy on health.
But I do think camping should be restricted in certain areas, especially when folk leave fires and plastic, both of which are a danger - to animals, birds and the countryside itself, apart from being unsightly.

Anne Conchie

Which is more important? People wanting to do unsocial things like bonfires and wild camping OR to help land owners who want this law and encourage them to be sympathetic to law-abiding walkers. I go for the latter but trust Ramblers to make sure our interests are defended to a sensible degree.

Andrew Melling (224462)

Responsible campers leave a pitch looking as if they had never been there. The minority of irresponsible campers can be dealt with under the Criminal Damage Act or the Environmental Protection Act. It is wrong in principle to create new offences to control behaviour covered by existing offences. I walk in the countryside a lot, in Kent near my home and in distant parts of the country. I see little mess or disturbance that might be blamed on campers. The real offenders are fly tippers and, regrettably, some farmers whose land is disfigured by rusting machinery and blue plastic.

Brian Reader

Only today and tomorrow left to get in a response. Pleased to see that Ramblers as an organisation has done, but how many of us as individuals have responded too to back that up ?