Ramblers map out battle plan

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The Independent Online
The landowners of England and Wales will be accused of "fighting dirty" today when the Ramblers' Association publishes a draft Bill that it hopes will form the basis of a qualified right to roam over mountain and moorland.

With Tony Blair committed to "give people greater freedom to roam the countryside", the RA's draft could be the last in a line of optimistic, but ultimately doomed, attempts at legislation.

Farmers, grouse-moor owners and conservationists will be invited to comment on the draft to see if a consensus can be agreed on "common-sense restrictions" when, for example, a shoot is taking place or during the lambing season. But the omens do not look good.

John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, has invited an RA delegation to see him next month to discuss ways of improving access to the countryside, and the Country Land-owners' Association is reviewing its own policy. However, neither Mr Gummer nor the CLA is likely to come up with anything approaching the freedom proposed by the RA.

Today's launch of the Bill at Crowden Youth Hostel on the Pennine Way is likely to underline the antipathy between the 112,000-strong RA and landowners representatives. RA chairman Kate Ashbrook will condemn "deliberate attempts" to mislead the media and politicians into believing that the association is demanding an unfettered right for people to wander anywhere they please.