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The community

7.2Woodland access and recreation including traditional and permissive use rights
7.2.1

Requirement

All existing permissive or traditional uses of the woodland shall be sustained except when such uses can be shown to threaten the integrity of the woodland or the achievement of the objectives of management.

Means of verification

  • Documentation or maps of all existing permissive and traditional uses of the woodland
  • Discussions with interested parties
  • Field observation of public rights of way
  • Evidence presented to justify any restriction of permissive or traditional uses.

Guidance

Permissive and traditional uses include:

  • Permissive footpaths and bridleways
  • 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)
  • Traditional ‘common rights’.

Permissive routes can be closed annually to maintain their permissive status.

Traditional uses which 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.

7.2.2

Requirement

There shall be provision for some public access to the woodland subject only to specific exemptions.

Means of verification

  • Field observation to confirm that access is available
  • Maps show public rights of way 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.

Guidance

In Scotland:

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act (2003) grants a right of responsible access to land, including woodland.

Guidance on responsible behaviour together with circumstances where access may be restricted is set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

There is no statutory right of general access to woodland but public access 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, may be denied in the following 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
  • 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.
7.2.3

Requirement

Where there is a special demand for further public access, particularly for the purpose of environmental education, the owner/manager shall make reasonable efforts to try to meet this demand or to help locate an alternative site.

Means of verification

All woodlands:

  • No evidence from consultation with interested parties of unreasonable refusal of access.

Non-SLIM woodlands:

  • Records of publicised annual open days or guided walks, school visits or research undertaken in the woodland.

Guidance

Examples of reasonable efforts include:

  • When cropping schedules or stock management or silvicultural regimes require restricted public access, the owner/manager advertises the days when closure restrictions are lifted. Woodlands accessed across open arable fields may need time for preparation and marking of access routes; bull or lambing fields may need access diversions; storm damage or woodland operations may make woodlands temporarily unsafe. Temporary notice boards should explain the reasons for diversions and closures
  • 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
  • Woodlands containing or adjoining notable historic environment or ecological features may attract large numbers of visitors even to small properties. 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.