Public Rights of Way and Access Land
NFU Cymru has produced an updated Briefing to update members on the latest situation on COVID-19 and public access and rights of way. This follows the announcement that Welsh Government has laid emergency legislation requiring local authorities, NRW and National Parks to carry out the immediate closure of rights of way and access land where it is considered that these areas are liable to large numbers of people congregating or being in close proximity to each other, or the use of which otherwise poses a high risk to the incidence or spread of infection in its area with the coronavirus.
Welsh Government has subsequently confirmed legislation will impose further duties on authorities to erect signage to ensure fairness to the general public and introduce a common enforcement regime applicable to all areas covered by the new COVID-19 Regulations which includes a potential fixed penalty notice of £60. Local authorities will keep under review paths and access land which may need closing and amend as necessary.
Welsh Government has also confirmed it will be publishing separate guidance with regards to outdoor access, the main points being:
- Do not travel - Look for opportunities to be outside close to your home
- Follow Social Distancing Guidance - Stay more than 2 metres from others and avoid gathering in groups
- Be vigilant with hand washing and hygiene – Gates, stiles and other outdoor surfaces are touched regularly
- Do not undertake new or risky activities – Stay safe during this time of increased burden on our emergency and health services
- Follow the Countryside Code - Consider farmers and others who are working hard to keep our shelves stocked and infrastructure running
Welsh Government issues guidance to planning authorities
Welsh Government has issued guidance to planning authorities setting out how they expect local planning authorities to maintain services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance can be found here and recognises that planning services will be significantly disrupted and delayed whilst local and national government pursues the main priority of protecting the NHS and saving lives.
Welsh Government encourages all applications to be made via Planning Applications Wales. All online applications should be validated so priority applications can be identified. Applications directly responding to COVID-19 should be prioritised as should ‘some applications to maintain food supplies’.
Welsh Government will be bringing forward legislation to temporarily remove the need for posting site notices. In terms of planning policy, TAN 11, 15 and Intensive Agriculture are under review and Welsh Government has confirmed that where new or further consultation is necessary will this now take place after the end of the current COVID-19 outbreak.