Increased off-road access to rural Wales would give healthy boost to economy

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Today (Tuesday 01 September 2015) CTC Cymru, Open MTB, Welsh Cycling and British Cycling applauded the Welsh Government’s proposal to adopt similar rules on access to the countryside as those enjoyed in Scotland, and is calling on all outdoor enthusiasts to support their campaign Trails for Wales, which they can do at www.ctc.org.uk/campaign/trails-wales

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Trails for Wales is the rallying cry for the UK’s leading cycle bodies as they respond to the Welsh Government’s consultation “Improving opportunities to access the outdoors for responsible recreation” which runs until 02 October.

Currently in Wales the Rights of Way system is based upon recorded historic use of routes instead of suitability. As a result, cyclists have rights to use just 21% of the network, with permission to ride along narrow rocky sheep tracks on steep ground but denied access to thousands of miles of public footpaths lying on metalled farm and forest roads.

In Scotland, following the Land Reform Act 2003, it is very different. Scotland enjoys ‘presumed access’. This means there is a presumption of “responsible access”, subject to exemptions laid out in the Outdoor Access Code (eg forestry operations). Consequently, Scottish off-road and leisure cycle tourism are booming and contribute between £236.2m and £358m a year.

Recent research indicates that outdoor activity in Wales contributes to nearly 10% of the Welsh tourist economy. The group argues that changes to countryside access within Wales could dramatically increase this figure, thereby offering more social, transport, recreational and health benefits for both residents and visitors to the country.

Tom Hutton, Snowdonia based mountain bike journalist and guide, speaking on behalf of Open MTB said:

“I don’t think we can exaggerate what an amazing opportunity for mountain biking this is. A change in access laws in Wales could potentially open 1000s of kilometres of currently out of bounds trails.

“It would put Wales back up there with Scotland as one of the best off road destinations in the world, and at the same time, would increase take up of the sport and local participation. It would also potentially pave the way for future changes in England.

“We urge all off road enthusiasts, in England as well as Wales, to add their voice to our joint Trail for Wales campaign.”

Gwenda Owen, CTC Cymru said:

“Following on from the Active Travel Wales Act this green paper provides another opportunity to realise the ambition of the First Minister Carwyn Jones to make Wales a cycling nation.

“A refresh of our access laws could make Wales the cycling centre for the UK, and would provide a healthy boost to the economy. I recommend everyone with a passion for the outdoors to show their support for our joint campaign, Trails for Wales.”

The coalition of cycle groups are calling on everyone to write to the Welsh Government in support of their response, and can do so through a simple online tool here.

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