Farm payments fail to pay for public access

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 02/12/2021
Photo: Shuttershock

The BMC is disappointed that the latest Government announcement outlining details of the new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELM) under which farmers can receive payment in return for providing ‘public goods’. Despite early reassurances by Ministers, it appears that improvements to public access to nature are being quietly dismissed.

In the latest announcement made by Environment Secretary George Eustice at the CLA Conference (2 December), Government failed to provide any details on how, or indeed if, farmers will be able to receive payments for improving public access, despite the pandemic which has clearly highlighted how important spending time in green and blue spaces and connecting with nature is for our health and wellbeing.

The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan has a clear commitment to ensure that the natural environment can be ‘enjoyed, used and cared for by everyone’. Its Agriculture Act enables funding to be provided to farmers and land managers for improving public access to the countryside. And throughout the last year, ministers have repeatedly acknowledged the importance of being able to connect with nature and have committed to supporting and improving access through the new funding regime (ELM) brought into being by the Act.

With agriculture accounting for around 70% of land use in England, farmers have a major role to play in making it easier for all to access the countryside. The new farm payments regime offers a way to change that and for the public to really benefit from public money by allowing for better and greater access across the farmed landscape. This could be by simply improving signage or through the creation of new paths to fill gaps in the network, resulting in more circular routes for the public.

Despite this, and alongside the public's clear desire to spend time in nature, we still have no assurances that enhancing access will be included in the new scheme. The BMC working together with the Ramblers, British Canoeing and the Open Spaces Society have published their recommendations on how ELM can work to improve public access, and have presented this on numerous occasions to the Ministers and DEFRA team.  Collectively, we are yet to be assured that public access will be included in the future ELM regime and believe this will be a huge, missed opportunity.

The BMC is therefore supporting our friends at the Ramblers and calling on supporters to write to their MP to ask them to push ministers to keep their promises to connect everyone with nature and to include access in Environmental Land Management schemes.

As a group of organisations we will also continue to raise this with Ministers and politicians alike.

DOWLOAD: Environmental Land Management and Public Access


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