MOD public consultation on countryside access
Paul Dancey on 23/10/2012
The Ministry of Defence has launched a formal public consultation on the current arrangements that control public access to military land across the country.
Most MOD sites where hazardous or sensitive activities take place are covered by MOD Bye-laws which provide arrangements for safe public access (when this is permitted) and give approval for appropriate activities.
All land under MLA Bye-laws is excepted from the provisions of the CROW Act, and the MOD relies upon the Bye-laws to support the delivery of safe public access.
Historically some facilities and secure sites are not covered by Bye-laws. As a general rule responsible use by the public has meant that there has been no need to formalise access arrangements this way. The 'red flag rule' has been respected and the MOD have an excellent safety record.
However as most ranges and secure sites are, by nature, open areas and never subject to intensive agriculture the Countryside Agency's habitat mapping exercise identified them as matching the criteria for access land.
The MOD has a programme to review and update current Bye-laws, and new or revised Bye-laws will be introduced for the majority of these sites at some time in the future. In the meantime, Section 28 of the CROW Act allows the Secretary of State for Defence to make a 'Direction' that excludes or restricts access onto land covered by the Act for the purpose of Defence. These Directions can be for short-term, long-term or indefinite periods. Indefinite Directions are made when it is reasonable to assume that the area requires special arrangements for public access for the foreseeable future.
As responsible land managers the MOD has used Section 28 of the CROW Act to regularise the public access arrangements for the reasons of defence effectiveness and public safety to a number of areas since 2007 while the Bye-laws are updated. A Section 28 Direction does not necessarily restrict all public access. In most cases of the 21 directions made in 2007 the public are welcome to visit the ranges or training areas when the red flags are down or at times of reduced military activity, and they do not propose to change the current arrangements for access under this review. However some Directions are for secure site where the MOD does not permit public access except by special arrangement.
Indefinite Directions have to be reviewed within 5 years and as the current Section 28 Directions were made by the MOD in December 2007 these are now due for review through the process laid down in the legislation.
Further information about this review and maps of the areas concerned are available on the MOD website.
The consultation closes on the Monday 19th November 2012.
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