Rural bodies are asking the Justice Secretary to urgently review the police's interpretation of the coronavirus lockdown enforcement measures.
It follows the latest guidance from the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing, which said driving to the countryside to go for a walk is within the current lockdown rules.
The document listed several examples of reasonable and unreasonable behaviour but was mocked by critics for stating buying tools and supplies to repair a fence panel was ok while buying paint and brushes to redecorate a kitchen was not.
On the subject of exercise, the advice for England stated: "Driving to the countryside and walking (where far more time is spent walking than driving)" is reasonable. While "driving for a prolonged period with only brief exercise" is not.
'Putting pressure on rural communities'
The National Rural Crime Network, National Farmers' Union, Countryside Alliance and Countryside Business and Land Association (CLA) warned, however, that this would encourage more people to travel to the countryside, spreading the disease and putting a strain on rural resources.
The letter to Robert Buckland QC was signed by Julia Mulligan (chairman of the National Rural Crime Network), Stuart Roberts (deputy president, NFU), Mark Bridgeman (president, CLA), and Tim Bonner (chief executive, Countryside Alliance).
It read: “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. 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.”