There should not be a right of recreation to all land in Wales; instead there should be greater emphasis on improving the existing access, according to the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).
In its response to the Welsh Assembly Government’s consultation on public access BASC also calls for more opportunities for recreational shooting in state-owned forests.
While the association supports responsible use of land and water for non-motorised recreation it stresses the importance of proper safeguards to protect management, other uses and wildlife. BASC says that there is already sufficient public access in Wales and government should now focus on maintaining it, raising awareness of it and encouraging people to use it.
At the moment many footpaths are overgrown or underused and often lead to a dead end. These should be properly maintained and, where possible, joined to create circular walks ensuring that existing opportunities can be fully enjoyed before creating new ones.
BASC is particularly concerned that shooting is unfairly treated when it comes to leases for shooting rights over government-owned forestry. This seems to be at odds with the stated aims for new access which recognise the economic benefit from recreational activity. Shooting is worth £75 million a year to the Welsh economy and more game shooting and deer stalking leases should be available.
The association draws attention to the serious economic and environmental consequences of opening up woodland, which would have a major impact on shoot management, and it maintains that on inland waters and the coast there is already sufficient access.
Derek Williams from BASC Wales, said; “Shooting already provides access to the countryside for many thousands of people. It enriches their lives and alongside the recreational value it produces significant economic and environmental benefits. Councils say that because of government cutbacks they do not have the resources to fully promote and maintain the existing network of footpaths so adding to their burden makes no sense at all.”
Chairman of the BASC Wales committee, Jono Garton, said; “We certainly support the notion of more people getting out and enjoying the countryside but it has to be done responsibly. Since the current access facility is so little used you have to question the wisdom of extending access, especially when it has the potential to damage the countryside and wildlife that attract people in the first place. Instead the government should encourage sustainable use and the kind of beneficial recreation that shooting provides.”