What is a Local Access Forum?
A Local Access Forum (LAF) is a statutory body established under the Local Access Forums (England) Regulations 2002 in accordance with the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2002. It is an advisory body, made up of individuals who have an interest in the countryside, and is set up to advise Highway authorities, National Park authorities, Natural England and others on the improvement of public access to land in the local area.
What does a Local Access Forum do?
LAF’s are statutory advisors to appointing authorities (for example, Highway Authorities, National Parks Authorities). They advise on the improvement of public access to land within their area for open-air recreation and the enjoyment of the area.
An LAF is a statutory consultee on:
- Any bylaws to be made by access authorities in respect of access land
- Councils’ proposals to appoint wardens for access land
- Rights of Way improvement plans
- An LAF must also be consulted by Natural England on draft maps of open country and registered common land. The statutory duty is wide ranging in its scope.
Who is in charge of the Forum?
The LAF is an independent body that elects its own Chair, decides its own work programme and reports to relevant bodies as it sees fit. The County Council is responsible for supporting the LAF, including arranging secretarial support.
Has this been done before?
No. This is the first time the public have been invited to join an independent Forum set up to advise local authorities. It is a new and exciting way of involving people in providing ideas and views on improving access to the countryside.
What is meant by ‘access’?
Access land refers broadly to land classified as Open country, Common Land and Public Rights of Way.
What is meant by ‘user’?
Anyone who uses the countryside for recreational use, this includes such various activities as walking, horse riding, cycling, climbing, boating, driving, family activities such as picnics, etc.
What is meant by Land Management?
Owners, occupiers and tenants of land and others with an interest in the land.
What is included in ‘other interests’?
This is a very broad category and includes anyone with an interest in the countryside including nature conservation, heritage, tourism, health, business and transport.
What if I have no experience in these particular subjects?
Applicants who are not experienced in these particular topics, or aligned with any particular interest group, may nevertheless bring wider experience to the Forum and help discourage division along interest group lines.
How can I become a member of the Local Access Forum for Essex?
Anyone with an interest in the countryside can apply by completing the application pack. The Regulations require us to advertise widely for prospective members and we will ensure our selection criteria and methods give maximum opportunities to the widest audience. Membership will include a cross section of local interests.
Potential members are encouraged to come to a meeting as a visitor.
How will you ensure the Forum does not become a focus for arguments between landowners and ramblers?
The membership must be balanced between users and land managers and the regulations state that the county council should appoint people who represent interests rather than organizations. Furthermore, a range of other interests such as tourism, transport, health, economic development etc must be represented. The Government expects LAFs to deal with strategic issues rather than individual cases. Members also have to make a commitment to discuss issues in an open way rather than a confrontation.
If I’m not a Forum member how can I keep track of its work and results?
The LAF will have to conduct its business in public. Meetings will be publicized in advance and will be open to members of the public. Agendas and papers will be available. The LAF will produce an annual report showing the content and outcome of discussions.
Where will I find the agenda and minutes from the forum meetings?
Agenda, Minutes and Reports will be available on the Local Access Forum Meetings page.
Where can I find out more?
- Contact the Essex Local Access Forum secretary: administrator @ essexlaf.org.uk
- The Local Access Forums (England) Regulations 2002 are available from The Stationery Office Ltd, ISBN 0110299922 and on the internet at: www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk
- For the further information visit the Natural England pages of the GOV.UK website or read Defra Guidance on Local Access Forums in England 2009
- LAF Members Handbook