Open access land camping plan criticised by farming union

A hang glider lands Image copyright Geograph/Peter Facey
Image caption Plans to extend countryside rights of way that allow paragliding and hang gliding

Plans to allow paragliding, games, camping and hang gliding on open access land in Wales have been criticised by a farming union.

The National Farmers' Union said Welsh Government proposals to extend countryside rights of way access would "have major repercussions for farmers".

It said allowing more activities would impact the day-to-day running of farms.

The Welsh Government said the plans were meant to help rural businesses thrive.

NFU Cymru claim the proposals are "radical" and could affect the 460,000 hectares (1,1m acres) of farmland in Wales.

Open access land includes areas of open country, registered common land and private land where people are able to walk, run and explore without having to stay on paths.

Geraint Rowlands, Meirionnydd NFU Cymru county chairman, said changing the access could particularly affect farmers who have "diversified" into camping.

Image copyright Geograph/Jaggery
Image caption Rights of way in rural areas are covered by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000

"Meirionnydd [in Gwynedd] is an area that relies heavily on income from tourism and many farmers in particular have diversified into camping businesses, for supplementary income," he said.

"If the proposals to allow camping on any access land came into force, members of the public could camp anywhere on those 460,000 hectares…for free."

NFU Cymru said the proposals were "buried" within the Taking Forward Wales' Sustainable Management of Natural Resources consultation.

"Along with the obvious monetary impact and the increased liability on farmers, there is also concern that these additional activities could disrupt wildlife habitats, scare animals, create ruts on land and injuries could occur whilst carrying out these activities in remote areas," added Mr Rowlands.

"Whilst we wish to see the public and their pets enjoy their time in this beautiful area of Wales, we do have concerns that allowing access to camping, organised games, hang gliding and paragliding could impact on the running of farming businesses."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wales has 460,000 hectares (1,136,684.75 acres) of farmland

A Welsh Government spokesman said the purpose of the consultation was to "gain a better understanding of views on a more modern, streamlined and effective regulatory framework" following the UK's exit from the European Union.

"By bringing proposals together into one consultation we are delivering exactly what our stakeholders asked for - a more joined-up approach," he added.

"A consultation workshop was held at the Royal Welsh Show in July with further events planned across Wales during September. We have also extended the closing date until the end of September to provide stakeholders more time to respond.

"Access proposals relating to where people can go and what they can do are intended to help individuals and businesses in rural areas to thrive following our exit from the EU."

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