The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has written to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer calling on him to scrap his promise of an English Right to Roam Act in the event of a Labour government.

According to CLA president Mark Tufnell, the policy is “entirely incompatible with Sir Keir’s claim that Labour is becoming the party of the countryside”.

The Right to Roam allows members of the public to roam freely in the countryside, whether the land is privately or publicly owned.

The CLA said the party should have consulted landowners and farming groups before announcing its policy in January 2023.

Now, the association said, it has written to Starmer to argue that the policy will have unknown consequences for nature, farming and public safety.

“Labour has, without consultation, promised to give the public unrestricted access to virtually all rural land, ignoring the need for such land to be protected for the purposes of food production, natural habitats and the vast array of environmental projects being undertaken by landowners,” Tufnell said.

“We already have a fine network of public access. 140,000 miles of public footpaths exist in England and Wales, as well as 3.5m acres of public access land and significantly more in permissive access. 

“Labour should work with us to explore how we might better promote this existing network to those who quite rightly seek access to the countryside, but ensuring it is done in a way that does not damage the landscape.”

Tufnell critiqued the Labour party for not commissioning any ecological studies in the development of the policy, so “the truth is they have no idea what impact it will have on nature”.

“To the best of our knowledge, no studies have been done on the impact on public safety, despite people dying from cattle attacks every year,” he said.

“How many more wildfires will there be? How many more sheep will be attacked by dogs? What damage will be done to crops

“As far as I can see, Labour adopted this policy because it’s fashionable among some of their voter base, but without really looking into the consequences at all.”