Increased UK Rural Access Could Be Boon For MTB Community

DEFRA statement could open up access for increased use of currently inaccessible trails and cycle paths.

The UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has announced its intention to move to a new system of paying farmers which could possibly lead to vastly increased trail access for the off-road and MTB community.

The DEFRA release states “The government’s proposals will see money redirected from direct payments under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), which are based on the amount of land farmed, to a new system of paying farmers “public money for public goods”.

“Public goods” is the key phrase as the release continues…”public goods which could be supported include investment in technology and skills to improve productivity, providing public access to farmland and the countryside, enhanced welfare standards for livestock and measures to support the resilience of rural and upland communities” The release continues later stating public access “could qualify for government funding under the new schemes”.

As mountain bikers we are constantly fighting for access and/or creation of trail systems. The UK has a wealth of public footpaths and trails on farmland which off-road cyclists and mountain bikers have had very limited or no access to. This DEFRA statement and recent increased cycle access to footpaths in Wales are encouraging signs that off-road athletes in the UK could soon have significantly more options available to them.

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A DEFRA consultation release made public by the government titled ‘The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment’ has highlighted how the department aims to move to a new system of paying farmers “public money for public goods”, rather than the current system based on the amount of land farmed.

The document also comments on providing public access to farmland, which it describes as a “public good”. Cycling UK head of campaigns Duncan Dollimore claims this statement of intent is encouraging for the off-road and MTB community, as this would open up access for increased use of currently inaccessible trails and cycle paths.

Dollimore commented: “As the Environment Secretary points out, this consultation is only the beginning of the conversation. It’s Cycling UK’s role now to make sure the views of our members and the off-road cycling community are therefore heard and part of the ongoing discussion.

“Encouragingly for lovers of our countryside, Mr Gove appears to see improved access as a public good. That’s precisely the position Cycling UK outlined in our Beyond the Green Belt vision, and over the coming months we’ll be outlining how and where public money should be invested to increase access, and why this will benefit not just people cycling, but also the rural economy.”

The full document can be found here.




Jimmy Archer

Founder and Editor at Jimmy has been a professional athlete for over 18 years as a runner, cyclist, mountain biker, cross country skier, and primarily, triathlete. Jimmy has a degree in exercise science from the University of Colorado and is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified coach. Jimmy became a freelance writer in 2000 while competing and covering the ITU Winter Triathlon World Championship. Since that time Jimmy has been head editor at two magazines, been published in numerous publications within the endurance sport, recreation, and travel segments. Currently Jimmy is competing professionally in off-road multisport. In his spare time Jimmy passionately follows Formula 1, Moto GP, and is an avid cook.

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