The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000


The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW Act 2000) applies to England and Wales only, received Royal Assent on 30 November 2000, with the provisions it contains being brought into force in incremental steps over subsequent years. Containing five Parts and 16 Schedules, the Act provides for public access on foot to certain types of land, amends the law relating to public rights of way, increases measures for the management and protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and strengthens wildlife enforcement legislation, and provides for better management of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The Act is compliant with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, requiring consultation where the rights of the individual may be affected by these measures.

Access to the Countryside

The Act provides a new right of public access on foot to areas of open land comprising mountain, moor, heath, down, and registered common land, and contains provisions for extending the right to coastal land.  The Act also provides safeguards which take into account the needs of landowners and occupiers, and of other interests, including wildlife.

Public Rights of Way and Road Traffic

The Act improves the rights of way legislation by encouraging the creation of new routes and clarifying uncertainties about existing rights. Of particular relevance to nature conservation, the Act introduces powers enabling the diversion of rights of way to protect SSSIs.

Nature Conservation and Wildlife Protection

The Act places a duty on Government Departments and the National Assembly for Wales to have regard for the conservation of biodiversity and maintain lists of species and habitats for which conservation steps should be taken or promoted, in accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Schedule 9 of the Act amends SSSI provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, including provisions to change SSSIs and providing increased powers for their protection and management. The provisions extend powers for entering into management agreements; place a duty on public bodies to further the conservation and enhancement of SSSIs; increases penalties on conviction where the provisions are breached; and introduce a new offence whereby third parties can be convicted for damaging SSSIs. To ensure compliance with the Human Rights Act 1998, appeal processes are introduced with regards to the notification, management and protection of SSSIs.
Schedule 12 of the Act amends the species provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, strengthening the legal protection for threatened species. The provisions make certain offences 'arrestable', create a new offence of reckless disturbance, confer greater powers to police and wildlife inspectors for entering premises and obtaining wildlife tissue samples for DNA analysis, and enable heavier penalties on conviction of wildlife offences.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs)

The Act clarifies the procedure and purpose of designating AONBs, and consolidates the provisions of previous legislation. It requires local authorities to produce management plans for each AONB, and enables the creation of Conservation Boards in order to assume responsibility for AONBs, particularly where the land designated crosses several local authority jurisdictions. The Act also requires all relevant authorities to have regard to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of AONBs when performing their functions.

April 2010