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Countryside and access - an overview

This page is currently under review and the content will be updated shortly.

The law on access to the countryside is generally to be found in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, (NPACA 1949) which established a system of public access to the countryside. The Act provides for the designation of national parks and the establishment of national park authorities.

The provisions of this Act were further enhanced by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRWA 2000). The CRWA 2000 created the Wales coastal path, amended the law relating to public rights of way, enabling traffic regulation orders to be made to conserve an area’s natural beauty, and also made provisions on driving mechanically propelled vehicles elsewhere than on roads. 

The CRWA 2000 also provides for the designation of areas (not in a national park) which are of outstanding natural beauty.

The law in respect of the common land is largely governed by the Commons Act 2006. Common land is land which is owned by someone, but which other people are allowed to use in specific ways. That Act makes provisions about common land and town or village greens.

Key countryside and access legislation
List of key primary and subordinate legislation
Published on
Last updated
21 October 2021