5.1 Woodland access and recreation including traditional and permissive use rights
a) Existing permissive or traditional uses of the woodland shall be identified and sustained except when such uses can be shown to threaten the integrity of the woodland or the achievement of the objectives of management.
b) A precautionary approach shall be adopted in relation to water supplies.OPEN
Permissive and traditional uses include:
- Permissive access routes
- De facto access to well-known landmarks
- Gathering fruit or fungi by the public for their own consumption where this does not jeopardise the achievement of biodiversity objectives (having regard to codes of good practice)
- Water supplies.
Permissive routes can be closed annually to maintain their permissive status.
Traditional uses that exploit the woodland resource (e.g. peat cutting) should be carried out at a traditional scale.
‘Integrity’ refers principally to the ecological maintenance of the woodland.
a) There shall be provision for some public access subject only to limited exemptions.
b) Where there is a special demand for further public access for the purpose of environmental education, the owner/manager shall make reasonable efforts to meet this demand.OPEN
Woodlands containing or adjoining notable historic environment or ecological features may attract large numbers of visitors even to small properties. This presents an opportunity to promote public access and/or educate visitors about the multiple benefits of forestry.
Professional associations can advise on necessary safety and insurance provisions, ways of supporting educational visits and studies, and methods for recovering some or all of the extra costs of satisfying public demand.
The Land Reform (Scotland) Act (2003) provides for responsible access on foot, cycle or horse and also for responsible management of access by land owners and managers.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code provides guidance on responsible behaviour of those taking and managing access together with circumstances where access may be restricted.
In addition, supplementary guidance is published on specific aspects such as events and core paths.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland:
There is no statutory right of general access to woodland thus emphasising the value of allowing some public access which may be provided through one or more of:
- A permissive freedom to roam
- Public rights of way through or beside the wood
- Publicised open days or guided walks each year
- Permissive access on specified routes
- Access management agreements with local authorities
- In England and Wales only – by voluntarily dedicating woodland for public access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW).
Public access, other than on public rights of way, and environmental education may be denied in the following example situations:
- Woodlands under 10 ha in size with a high private amenity value
- Areas that adjoin dwellings or private gardens
- Isolated woodlands to which there is no ready access route for the public across adjoining land
- Woodlands where there is current evidence of serious and sustained abuse or damage. Persistent vandalism may force owners/managers to place particular woodland blocks or areas ‘out of bounds’. Reasons should be communicated through local schools, libraries, post offices and parish halls to help stimulate community co-operation to combat damage
- Areas of the woodland that contain sites, species or features that would be particularly vulnerable to disturbance
- Periods or days when country sports, outdoor recreation or special events would be jeopardised
- Temporary closures in order to ensure public safety.
- Field observation to confirm that access is available
- Maps show public rights of way and/or core paths through or beside the wood
- Evidence of publicised annual open days or guided walks
- Access agreements with local authorities
- Evidence that account has been taken of local demand
- Evidence from consultation with interested parties
- Records of publicised annual open days or guided walks, school visits or research undertaken in the woodland
- Evidence of access provision, path maintenance, conservation management (particularly in regard to visitor erosion) and interpretation at significant cultural and historic environment assets.