*Let’s get the Countryside Accessible


DEFRA are running a consultation on how farmers get subsidised. The Disabled Ramblers response is below.  Please help by emailing this or your own thoughts to agricultureconsultation@defra.gsi.gov.uk


Following Brexit, the Common Agricultural Policy will end and the current system of subsidies to farms will end.  DEFRA have invited input to a consultation looking for ideas on how farmers will get money from the Government once we leave the EU.  At the moment they get a basic subsidy just for being in farming. This will cease  and the Right Honourable Michael Gove MP has indicated that he wants to see improved public access to the countryside and that future payments will be conditional on farmers making improvements to the environment and benefiting the community.


Page 56 of the Evidence Compendium in the consultation documents says, “To deliver a higher level of public goods and reduce pollution, government can use policy to provide incentives to promote or protect public goods.  Policies such as Environmental Land Management Schemes can deliver key public goods by rewarding farmers for adopting beneficial practices or measures.”


To improve public access to the countryside, it needs to be made accessible to a wider range of people.  A look at any statistics on visits to the countryside show that the disabled are underrepresented. Twenty-one per cent of the UK population, that is a massive 13.3 million people in the UK reported a disability in 2015/16.


While there may be other factors, a key barrier is the presence of stiles, steps, narrow bridges and narrow gates.

While some stiles have been removed, they are often replaced by gates which are too narrow for mobility scooters to pass through.


The Disabled Ramblers propose that farmers be paid to change ALL stiles, narrow gates, and narrow bridges to ones which are accessible to large mobility scooters such as the Tramper. Steps should be replaced by ramps. 


This would mean that a disabled person – with their families – could start a ramble across farmland confident that they will be able to complete a ramble without being stopped by a man-made obstruction.


Replacing these barriers with accessible ones will also give access to the many, many other people who cannot climb a stile or pass through a narrow gate – for example the elderly, people using crutches, vision impaired people, pregnant ladies, and people with pushchairs or child buggies.


The Government’s 25 Year Plan says that 2019 will be a “Year of Action for the Environment” and that it will be “Helping Children and Young People from all backgrounds to engage with nature and improve the environment.” Yet how can young families access farmland when they meet with so many barriers?


Although the Disabled Ramblers has been asking for the removal of man-made barriers since its inception 25 years ago little has changed, usually on the grounds of cost.  By incentivising farmers and land managers to make their land accessible in this way we can open up the countryside to ALL people.


If you would like to see access to the countryside improved, please write your own response or forward this email to agricultureconsultation@defra.gsi.gov.uk


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