In the autumn, the Home Office opened a consultation (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’. It’s not clear how the consultation on unauthorised encampments would impact on wider rights to access the countryside, including people’s rights to protest. We’re concerned that these moves could have the unintended consequences of eroding walkers’ rights and deterring people from visiting the countryside.
We’ve joined together with other concerned organisations to write an open letter seeking urgent clarification from the Home Secretary.
Letter to the Home Secretary
Rt Hon Priti Patel MP
28 February 2020
Dear Home Secretary
Home Office consultation on strengthening police powers to deal with unauthorised encampments
As organisations committed to enabling more people to enjoy the benefits of nature and the outdoors, we are deeply concerned about government’s intention to change trespass rules. The current proposals could have the unintended consequence of deterring people from accessing the countryside, particularly taken alongside the Conservative Party manifesto commitment to criminalising intentional trespass. This needs an urgent rethink.
We believe that government’s priority should be to make it easier for people to get outside, enjoy the benefits of walking and connect to the natural environment. Promoting access to the outdoors is a critical part of our response to the climate emergency, poor air quality, high levels of obesity and physical inactivity, and the mental health crisis.
We oppose any measures that would deter people from accessing the outdoors: engaging with nature and enjoying the countryside should not put you at risk of committing a crime. That’s why we’re writing to seek: 1) urgent clarification on the governments long-term plans around the criminalisation of trespass, and; 2) public commitment not to introduce measures that would limit people’s access to and enjoyment of the outdoors, and to working with organisations such as ours to ensure this is not the case.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Tompion Platt, Director of Advocacy & Engagement, The Ramblers
Dominic Dyer, CEO, Badger Trust
David Joy, CEO, British Canoeing
Mark Weston, Director of Access, British Horse Society
Dr Catherine Flitcroft, Access and Conservation Officer, British Mountaineering Council
Peter Hart, Chief Executive, British Orienteering
Tim Wheeler, Chairman, Canoe Camping Club
Crispin Truman, CEO, CPRE, the countryside charity
Roger Geffen, Policy Director, Cycling UK
Toos van Noordwijk, Director of Science, Policy and Innovation, EarthWatch Institute
Martin Sims, Director of Investigations, League Against Cruel Sports
David Morgan, Chair, Long Distance Walkers Association
Dr Robert Macfarlane, writer
Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary, Open Spaces Society
Steve Oram, Biodiversity Officer, People’s Trust for Endangered Species
Jenny Hawley, Policy Manager, Plantlife
Lisa Wainwright, CEO, Sport and Recreation Alliance
Jane Nickerson, CEO, Swim England
Jerry Swift, Chairman, The British Kite Flying Association
John Vanuffel, Technical Director, The Trail Riders Fellowship
Dr Mark Avery, Director, Wild Justice
Read our statement on trespass.