NFU joins forces to call for urgent review of lockdown travel guidelines

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The NFU, National Rural Crime Network, Countryside Alliance and CLA are asking the Justice Secretary to urgently review the interpretation of the coronavirus lockdown enforcement measures following last week’s guidance from the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing.

In a letter to Robert Buckland QC MP, Julia Mulligan (Chair of the National Rural Crime Network), Stuart Roberts (Deputy President, NFU), Mark Bridgeman (President, CLA) and Tim Bonner (Chief Executive, Countryside Alliance) said:

“There are, sadly, a great many of us who believe that the published NPCC and College of Policing guidelines around exercise and permissible distances to travel to do so, will make managing COVID-19 more difficult, as well as cause untold anxieties across rural communities.

“We are writing to you because the NPCC and College of Policing have issued guidelines based on CPS charging advice, which comes under your jurisdiction. Rewriting the NPCC / College of Policing guidance cannot be done in isolation. We therefore call on you, working with your colleagues, to urgently review the CPS charging advice, with particular reference to the impact this will have on all communities, including rural communities, and to ensure the key message remains: stay home, save lives.

“Between the signatories of this letter, we represent many millions of residents and thousands of businesses. We receive hundreds of concerned messages a day about people flouting the law, and there are great concerns that the new policing guidance will encourage even more people to carry out unnecessarily long journeys to exercise in rural areas, which will in turn put increased pressures on rural police forces and communities. It is specifically the guidance on length of travel versus length of exercise that is likely to cause problems in the battle against COVID-19 and has a particular impact on the rural communities we represent. We, like you, want our countryside to remain safe for communities to use and for people to be able to take vital exercise near to their homes.

“Given the above, we ask that the CPS advice, and related advice and guidance, be urgently reviewed. The CPS advice seems to be the foundation stone for how other guidelines are produced and how the police are expected to enforce the Government’s emergency legislation, and should therefore be looked at first. The key message needs to remain: stay home, save lives. Anything which complicates that message is unhelpful.”

A full copy of the letter to the Secretary of State can be read here - NFU members login to read.

  • Posted by: R HalePosted on: 29/04/2020 10:57:39

    Comment: As a full NFU member and ex Branch Chairman, your attempt to restrict access to the Countryside attempts to build on fear rather than the low risk of infection in the outside environment. I'm also a keen runner and see such exercise, together with walking, as a vital contribution to the Nation's physical and mental health, where little else in currently available. As a Footpath Warden, I take a particular interest, many of my regular runs which have been little used have suddenly become much better used, which is great to see. The greater problem is footpath reinstatement and maintenance beyond the normal County Footpath indicating signs, such that its very frequently difficult to discern where the Right of Way actually is, which in itself encourages trespass. Footpath usage has increased and I see will continue into the future, the Farming Community needs to accept and encourage it (I'm sure on the same level, dairy farmers would encourage more milk drinking!)
    When I compare footpath provision in Switzerland with the UK, the UK is far behind. They do have the "advantage" of few hedges, but footpaths and fully signposted, in prominent yellow, from the centre of villages with destination and realistic walking times, followed by frequent intermediate markers. There is also dramatically better provision for cyclists, on and off the public roads. The country footpath usage is dramatically greater in Switzerland, their obesity rate is 20% less than in the UK and it is their standards the UK should be aiming for.
    I understand the need for more flexibility for footpath diversion and particularly sheep worrying etc, but trying to make a Fort Knox of the Countryside in our free democratic Society will create social opposition . and political opprobrium.
    The NFU and similar organisations needs to get used to higher use and adapt, all will loose out if they are just oppositional.