UK countryside minister Elliot Morley has invited views on the future of farmland access grants.

Grants for public access to otherwise private farmland have been available since 1991 under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and since 1994 under the Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme. Between them, the two schemes have increased opportunities for the public to enjoy the countryside and currently provide over 800 miles of permissive footpaths, as well as 14,000 hectares of open access, and special educational access to farms for schools and colleges.

This access now needs to be reviewed to see how it might better link with land to be opened to the public under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and with the present Rights of Way network.

Morley said: "The government is committed to open over a million hectares of the
countryside under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. But permissive access provided by the agri-environment schemes will continue to have an important complementary role.  The review will ensure that this access is applied strategically to focus much more on demand and hence open up even more land for the benefit of the public."

During the consultation period, which runs from today [Monday] until 27 September, organisations and individuals with an interest in public access to the countryside are invited to express their views.