Thank you for contacting me about the right to roam.
I know the value so many people here in our area place on access to the countryside. I would like to reassure you that the measures under consideration would not affect ramblers, the right to roam or rights of way. Instead, the new proposed measures could be applied in specific circumstances relating to trespass with intent to reside.
As you may be aware, the Government is consulting on measures to criminalise the act of trespassing when setting up an unauthorised encampment in England and Wales. Ministers are also consulting on other measures to strengthen police powers in order to tackle unauthorised encampments. The consultation survey has now closed, and Ministers are currently analysing feedback. I, like you, await the Government's response and look forward to scrutinising any decisions that are taken.
I am enthusiastic about promoting recreation in the countryside and understand the benefits outdoor activities can produce both physically and mentally. Our countryside is of great importance and it cannot be understated just how much the scenery means to people. I am therefore encouraged by Government action to ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations, including our wonderful countryside.
I support the Government's strong track record on access to the countryside. For example, it has enabled the establishment of a 2,700-mile path around the entire English coastline, meaning walkers will be able to enjoy, explore and experience some of our finest and most important cultural and natural heritage – from the white cliffs of Dover, to the industrial heritage of the North East. When completed, I know that the England Coast Path will be the longest continuous coastal walking route in the world. Furthermore, I am pleased that the Prime Minister has committed to protecting 30 per cent of the UK’s land by 2030. This means an additional 400,000 hectares, the size of the Lake District and South Downs national parks combined, will be protected to support the recovery of nature.
Unfortunately, I have prior commitments and will be unable to attend The Petitions Committee’s debate which has been scheduled on this issue for Monday 25th January.