Wednesday, February 15, 2012

CLA Seminar Pulls in Leading Specialists on Public Access

Somerset will be the focal point for a major seminar on public access next month when three of the leading specialists in the field will come together to provide an analysis of the key issues confronting all those involved in the debate on the future of public access to land.

The seminar, which is being organised by the South West Region of the Country Land and Business Association in conjunction with lawyers, Dyne Drewett, will consider opportunities for improvements to access in the future as well as the problems of the present. The speakers will be Sarah Slade, a Chartered Surveyor and the CLA‘s National Access Adviser; Dr Karen Jones, a Barrister with Tanfield Chambers and former head of the CLA legal department and Jonathan Cheal, a solicitor and partner with Dyne Drewett who is a leading rights of way lawyer.

CLA South West Director, John Mortimer, says access issues affect every county across the South West – but Somerset had been chosen as a venue for the event because it offered clear examples of the difficulties confronting land owners and managers as well as the difficulties confronting those charged with managing public access.

Somerset, he said, also provides a good example of one of the key issues the speakers will be discussing – which is what land owners should do when applications are made to re-establish rights of way across their land. Mr Mortimer said that Somerset County Council’s Rights of Way Department had received more than 200 applications for unrecorded rights of way to be included on its Definitive Map; many of which had been incorrectly submitted because insufficient efforts were made to contact the owners of the land affected.

Coastal Access, with its questions on spreading room and liability; the need for reforms to the Animals Act plus controversial legislation relating to village greens were, he said all presenting challenges for land owners and managers. At the same time, Government proposals for improving rights of way based on the Stepping Forward report were being developed - which meant that the policy agenda was also changing.

“Public access continues to raise issues which landowners must ensure they understand and they must also be certain that appropriate measures are in place to enable them to manage access successfully on their land. But if we really want to make our rights of way fit for 21st Century - rather than the 19th Century - then we need to move away from the premise of increasing the amount of access at whatever cost and we need instead to look at improving what is already there.”

The three speakers are leading figures in the access debate and bring a wealth of knowledge, specialism and practical experience to the table. The event is being held at Holbrook House, Wincanton, Somerset, on Tuesday 27 March 4pm-7pm and the cost is £17 for CLA members and £30 for non-members.

Places can be reserved by calling the CLA regional office on 01249 700200; by emailing ; or by going to

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