Plans to change trespass rules could erode access to the countryside

The Future of Public Access

The Ramblers has written to the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Defra to express grave concerns about the government’s proposals to change trespass rules. This would be a major change in the law - and could have a significant impact on people’s ability to access the countryside.

The Ramblers previously raised alarm about the proposals in response to a Conservative Party manifesto commitment to ‘criminalise intentional trespass’ and subsequent Home Office consultation on police powers. The latest letter comes ahead of the publication of the Police Powers and Protections Bill and is written together with a range of other organisations - including CPRE, the countryside charity, the Open Spaces Society, British Mountaineering Council, Friends of the Earth, British Canoeing and Cycling UK.  

Gemma Cantelo, head of policy and advocacy at the Ramblers, said: 

“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. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how critical this is our physical and mental health.”

Alex Staniforth 339704

Your letter is absolutely spot-on. We don't want to see hard-won gains to the countryside emasculated and opponents to access using the proposed legislation to their own ends.

Anne Conchie

All publicity should make clear the difference between accidentally being off-route and deliberate action liable to harm the landowners interests. The first should not cause a criminal record; the second needs to be proven in court,

Michael Davies

Any proposed change in legislation ought to be in order to support people's access to our Country's diverse beauty. Instead this legislation proposes to criminalise accessing land accidentally.
Please keep your readers, and the public, informed.

Helen Brown

Completely agree with the points made so clearly in the letter. In the light of the funding that our taxes will provide for those who have custodianship of the countryside I would hope that increased access, the creation of more footpaths to create better links and circular routes would be on the agenda. Rather than a law that may deter.


This is going to be the end of the Right to Roam, why is there not the strength of campaigning as was seen when the motorised vehicle RoW ban was introduced?

Stan Lester

I very much support the contents of the letter, and while I think there may be a case to make certain kinds of unauthorised encampments unlawful, in general the proposals are unnecessary and retrogressive.

Mairead Cantley

Am I correct in assuming that these changes would apply to England and Wales but not to Scotland. What about Northern Ireland? Could you please get into the habit of clarifying this at the start of all future discussion on access issues.

Colin Kay

I thoroughly agree with Ramblers and other organisations on the impact this change in the law will have on the right to walk in the countryside. I feel that by changing the law of trespass it will give councils the right to sell off as much land as possible to balance the books to builders who will no doubt use the full force of the law to either move or build over existing footpaths, whereas now they have to comply by building around footpaths. As you say the government should be making it easier for people to get outside in the country for mindfulness benefits and healthier lifestyles.