asked Her Majesty's Government:
What procedures are in place for making reasoned decisions on applications for exclusions and restrictions to the rights of access over land mapped as access land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000; and in particular whether there is a requirement for a site visit in each case; what steps are taken to check that Section 26(3)of the Act is followed with respect to each application; and what are the procedures for considering any objections. [HL8099]
The Countryside Agency (now Natural England) issued guidance under Section 33 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to the relevant authorities. This sets out criteria for determining applications to exclude or restrict access under the CROW Act. The guidance was approved by the Secretary of State and the relevant authorities are required to have regard to it in making their decisions.
While it is not a statutory requirement to carry out site visits, they have so far been undertaken for the majority of applications received by the relevant authorities.
Restrictions under Section 26 of the CROW Act are for nature conservation and heritage purposes and are not available on application. However, Natural England gives consideration to representations from external organisations and members of the public on these grounds. The relevant authorities consider whether restrictions are required in the light of any advice from the relevant advisory bodies (Natural England for nature conservation and English Heritage for heritage preservation purposes).
Where a long-term restriction is proposed, it is subject to statutory consultation procedures and the relevant authority considers any objections that are received before making its decision.