I am a landowner with 9,000 acres. I am probably in the minority of landowners because I encourage walkers on my land. There are, however, additional barriers to access aside from the “prejudice, traffic, locked gates, signs with the dread words ‘private – keep out’” mentioned by John Harris (Walking is a glorious, primal pastime – and far more radical than you think, 26 December). There is the planning department of our national parks to consider.
I was recently encouraged to apply for a grant to create additional footpaths on my land. Indications were that some grant would be forthcoming, and I was told that the next step would be to apply for planning permission, which I did. Several months later I got a reply from the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park indicating that permission was highly unlikely to be granted. I was staggered by this. The right hand clearly does not know what the left hand is doing.
The desire to improve access to my land is entirely altruistic. I do not charge for entry on to the land, my business is not dependent on access to the hill, and I have no tea shop or other commercial outlet dependent on passing traffic. I genuinely believe that more people should get out and walk for the benefit of their health and life. If your newspaper would like to support a campaign to change the planning policy guidelines in this regard I would be delighted.
One wintry day in the 1970s, I took my two small children out, intending to walk in the grounds of a nearby stately home. But the tall gates were locked, with a “private – keep out” sign. We climbed over them and started our walk. As we came in sight of the house, a window opened and a voice said: “I say, do you know this is private property?” “Oh, yes,” I replied, “we saw your notice when we climbed over the gates.” “Well, don’t come too near the house,” the voice said, closing the window. We had a lovely walk.