Forum seeks new blood in the saddle

By Farnham Herald in Local People

NEW members are being sort for a group which advises on ways to improve access to Hampshire’s countryside.

The Hampshire Countryside Access Forum needs two new members to represent the interests of off-road cyclists and people with disabilities, to advise organisations including Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth and Southampton city councils.

Andrew Gibson, the county council’s executive member for culture, recreation and countryside, said: “We are looking for people who have a good knowledge of countryside issues with the ability to help make consensus decisions, to make it easier for people to enjoy the beautiful Hampshire countryside.

“The advice given by the Hampshire Countryside Access Forum is greatly valued because it is well considered and balanced, reflecting the range of interests represented across the organisations that make up the forum.”

Hampshire Countryside Access Forum is the statutory body for the county (excluding the New Forest and the South Downs) Southampton and Portsmouth, required under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Its members are people from a cross-section of interests – from landowners, farmers, councillors and rural business owners to walkers, horse riders, cyclists and motor vehicle users.

This ensures that the needs of all groups are taken into account when the forum provides advice on access to the countryside.

The remit of the Hampshire Countryside Access Forum is:

* Shaping and influencing: The forum has recently provided guidance and advice on the review of the Countryside Access Plan (Hampshire’s rights of way improvement plan);

* Awarding grants: The forum also makes up the panel that assesses applications to the Small Grants Scheme – hants.gov.uk/sgs – which since 2006 has provided funding to parish councils, community groups and landowners for improvements to rights of way and other access; and

* Major projects: The forum recently completed the Providing Access to Hampshire’s Heritage project – 3.hants.gov.uk/countryside – after securing funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This project recruited more than 100 volunteers to research historical evidence for rights of way which are not yet shown on our legal records but still meet current needs.

Some of these routes have now been added to the definitive map of rights of way and other additions are in progress.

Forum members are volunteers but can claim back travel and other related expenses. An employed forum officer provides administrative support for the forum, which meets four times per year.

Members are usually appointed for three years, however current membership is due to be renewed in September. As such, the two vacancies are for a one-year term, at the end of which you may reapply for a period that will bring you into line with other members.

To join the forum, for more information or to find out how to apply, visit ants.gov.uk/hcaf. Alternatively, call the countryside access team on 01962 845326 or e-mail petronella.nattrass@hants.gov.uk. The closing date for applications is February 27.

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