Farmers concerned about public access over their land voiced their worries last week at an online seminar organised by Farmers’ Union of Wales and an Oswestry business last week.

The virtual meeting attracted farmers from across Wales, many from tourist hotspots such as Snowdonia, who had many questions for Philip Meade from Davis & Meade in Beatrice Street.

All farmers had some sort of right of way over their land, public footpaths in most cases but also coastal access, 'open country' under the Countryside and Rights of Way (RoW) Act, bridleways and green lanes and had experienced problems at one time or another.

Dogs were a common problem with concerns over dog muck, livestock worrying, injury and deaths and disease transfer from dog faeces.

“For many of the farmers the COVID-19 lockdown had reduced the problems they experienced with public access but for a smaller number problems have got worse,” said Mr Meade.

"The session was also a useful opportunity to revisit the rules on livestock and cultivations on public paths, and questions over liability for dogs and livestock.

"Farmers were reminded of the fact that the owner of a dog is responsible for any damage done to livestock by their dog.

"From the farmer's point of view killing a dog which is threatening livestock must always be a last resort and it is vital that the Police are informed as soon as possible if the farmer is to have a defence against legal action.

“All the farmers were keen to lobby for stricter controls over dogs in the countryside; for example, making it a legal requirement for dogs to be on a short lead at all times around livestock. This is already a legal requirement on 'open access' areas during the bird nesting season.

“The use of a specific route by members of the public for a period of time (usually 20 years plus) can lead to an application for a permanent right of way," he added.

"This is of particular concern for landowners adjoining housing estates or with certain landscape ‘features’ such as rivers, reservoirs, lakes or those with tracks accessing items such as solar panels, masts or wind farms.

“The solution is to make a Statutory Declaration under the Highways Act every 10 years and lodge it with the local council, stating ownership, current RoW and hence clarifying what isn’t a RoW and ideally include a marked up OS plan. Notices should also be displayed on the land.

“Where a Definitive Map Modification Order is made for a Right of Way landowners must be alerted so they can object to it and the Local Authority must refer any applications with objections to the Planning Inspectorate."