Monday, 4 July 2011


You don't have to dig too deep (if at all) to find the less than hidden Conservatives lifted Republican (US) not quite progressive sub-text that sits (still wrapped in watered down right wing republican (US) anti big government rhetoric) behind this Conservative driven right wing coalition government. Cameron's Con Dem's have the Cabinet Office's Red Tape Challenge which was relatively quietly launched in April (2011) which is an on-line only process of asking members of the public (well motivated or not) of re-considering a whole lot of regulations (which give teeth to most laws) and thereby telling the Con Dem's which work and which don't - with the dangled carrot being that the 'burdensome regulations' (laws) will go!

Now don't get me wrong I am no great fan of obsessive and overburdening Governance, but, there is more to this than first meets the eye. One of the pieces of legislation (sorry regulations) that has been 'flagged up' is the Countryside Rights of Way Act (CRoWA) which was passed some ten years ago (and effects Wales and England) and gave access rights (basically the right to roam) to thousands of acres of formerly out of bounds lands to walkers and members of the public. It is (somewhat ironically) difficult to remember how little access people had (even within our National Parks) before CRoWA was passed. The legislation resulted in an increase in the amount of land with statutory permanent access in Snowdonia increased by some 620% and in the Brecon Beacons by some 1,565%.

Obviously that old traditional reactionary (if nearly spun out of sight) streak in the Conservatives would love to repeal this (and no doubt other socially useful) legislation, but the Conservatives (and their Liberal Democrat little helpers) dare not do so openly for fear of electoral damage at the hands of the voters. When the original Act was passed there were some well organised mutterings from some (but by no means all) landowners who did not want people wandering over their land (and no doubt disturbing their game). A number of concerned walking groups are now concerned that there may be concerted attempt from some landowners (and their supporters) to weaken or undermine the CRoW Act, thus enabling the Con Dem's to repeal sections of regulations and re-restrict public access.

If my (and other peoples) interpretation of the way the Red Tape Challenge works is correct then if enough people object too (or flag up enough objections) to specific regulations then they may get specific regulations repealed and any legislation will either be weakened or undermined and become untenable. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has said that this is not the case: 'Defra is committed to enhancing the natural environment and there are no plans to remove important environmental protections' - I won't hold my breath on that one!

CRoWA significantly eased access to many parts of Wales for all of us, with the exception of our rivers (here talk to any canoeist and they will tell you at length how restricted access to our rivers actually is in the 21st century). Rivers aside for another day, what worries me is whether or not the near inert Labour government in Cardiff Bay will even notice any of these potential developments, which could have an impact on walker and tourist generated incomes across the whole of Wales. Nominally at least the spotlight is on health and safety, pensions, equalities, company law, employment related law and environmental legislation, the website is open for comment until September 1st 2011 - so don't say that you have not been warned!

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