Landscape Alliance Ireland


Submission on Proposed Development of a National Countryside Recreation Strategy


Observations on the Proposed Working Definition of Countryside Recreation:



We note the proposed interim definition of Countryside Recreation and would recommend that the concept of ‘passive countryside recreation’ be included.


The draft interim definition appears to place the focus on active recreation in the countryside that involves physical exertion, whilst for many people recreation in the countryside will involve quite a passive but very important opportunity to appreciate and relate to the extent, diversity and beauty of the natural heritage of Ireland .


The LAI Vision of Countryside Recreation over the Next 10 Year Period:


The Importance of formulating National Policy


Landscape Alliance Ireland was founded on foot of a call for a National Landscape Policy. LAI still pursues that goal and it is regrettable that it has yet to become a reality, as it would be a valuable related policy to a National Recreation Policy.


An equally important related policy would be a National Land-use Policy. In the hierarchy of governance, management and planning, a strategy should follow a policy and lead on the implementation measures and instruments.


A Countryside Recreation Strategy would be greatly strengthened and informed if it was considered within such a structured framework.


A National Recreation Strategy


We would wish to see countryside recreation provided for within the context of an all-embracing national recreation strategy covering both the urban and rural landscape.  This approach has the advantage of defusing some of the tensions that arise when countryside recreation is addressed in isolation of a national strategy.


The very term ‘countryside recreation’ will understandably evoke a negative knee-jerk reaction from some sections of the rural population.   


There is in reality a two-way flow from the countryside to settlements and vica-versa with regard to recreational needs.


Access for Recreation


Landscape Alliance Ireland would wish that the issue of access to the landscape both urban and rural would once and for all be addressed in a decisive manner acknowledging the concerns of property owners with regard to their private property rights but equally importantly acknowledging the need to address the common good.


The functioning of the state at an economic and social level depends on an extensive range of ‘rights of way’ from motorways down to the most insignificant pathways.


Each access route has its own characteristics and complexities. Some of these have already been given legal status. Such legal status as exists has been built up over time in response to diverse needs, particularly within the urban landscape, but there has been a regrettable tardiness in addressing the legal framework for access within the rural landscape and parts of the urban landscape. The emphasis is currently on access routes for vehicular traffic, a balanced emphasis is now required on access routes for all other modes of transport including the foot traffic.


A county-by-county register of rights of way classified into different categories must be prepared as a matter of absolute urgency and incorporated into the Development Plan process.


The potential of a Rights of Way Commission or perhaps a Rights of Way Ombudsman should be very seriously considered.


We would note that if the cost of fuel continues to rise rapidly it will progressively change the pattern of countryside recreational travel. This may well see a gradual shift from private to public transport over time. Such a development would have medium to long term implications for a countryside recreational strategy.


Protection of the ‘Countryside Resource’


There are complex social, economic and health issues surrounding countryside recreation all of which are linked to the common good and it is important that the widest possible range of both passive and active recreation be incorporated within the strategy.


There is however a need over and above issues of property rights to recognise that the countryside is a vulnerable resource and there are already many case histories of situations where excessive use of the countryside recreation has resulted in the destruction of the very recreational resource targeted.


It is vital to anticipate such ‘pressure points’ and to take early action. Irish examples would be the wear and tear on pathways in Connemara National Park , and the excess provision of ferries carrying day visitors to the Aran Islands .


The strategy such include methodologies for identifying the ‘carrying capacity’ of the countryside and appropriate control or intervention measures.    



Measuring the effectiveness of a Countryside Recreation Administrative Strategy


The strategy could be measured by developing a standard template common to all the players and stakeholders in the countryside, focussing on key indicators.


The ‘unorganised’ recreational users of the countryside would have to be surveyed to obtain measurement data.


Countryside Recreation Administrative Structures


It is logical that the management of the countryside recreation should in so far is as possible be linked to the existing administrative infrastructure namely the Local Authorities, Regional Authorities, and the National Government and every effort should be made to avoid a disjointed and uncoordinated infrastructure.



Obstacles Anticipated by Landscape Alliance Ireland in Achieving the Above Vision and How They Might be Overcome:


  1. The major obstacles relates to fear of the unknown, lack of adequate information and in particular lack of regular consultation and communication between all parties.                                                                                    
  2. It is vitally important that structures are put in place that enable continuous interaction to take place between all of the parties involved from landowners through the different organisations, recreational organisations and on to the individual citizen.                                                                                                      
  3. The issue of liability lies at the heart of the fear of landowners and this has not always been helped by the approach adopted within the legal system.   It is important that individual responsibility for actions be taken far more seriously than has been the case in the past.                                                                                                                        

The greater the reduction in the level of responsible behaviour required of the individual citizen, the more damage that is caused to the very fabric of society let alone the issue of countryside recreation.


All measures relating to countryside recreation should be underpinned by a clear understanding that individuals must make an assessment of risk in all of their activities.                                                                                                   

There is a need to clearly categorise the extent of the risk that applies to the landowner and the extent that applies to the person engaging in recreation on the lands in question.                                                                                                                                         

  1. The issue of funding is always central to the success of any strategy but it is important that funding is properly targeted and focuses on putting in place measures and instruments that will enable recreation to occur as spontaneously and naturally as possible.                                                                                                                  

The more organised countryside recreation becomes the greater the risk of excluding a large section of the population who do not wish to engage in structured recreation, but who would also benefit greatly from countryside recreation.


A system might be set up where those engaging in recreation in the countryside would register with a central agency, pay a fee, be provided with targeted insurance, receive a ‘membership number’ and ‘car disc’ and would sign in by phone or text when entering or leaving remote areas of countryside. This would be linked with rescue providers and possible funding to landowners. Signs at entry points could provide telephone numbers, and casual users of the countryside could pay by credit card.                                                                                                                                        

  1. Environmental Impact will have to be monitored on a continuous basis to ensure that the damage already referred to is not caused to the very resource upon which the recreation depends, which constitutes a significant proportion of our natural and man-made heritage.                                                                             
  2. Local community and voluntary involvement is central to many recreational pursuits in the countryside and it would be desirable that there might be a liaison officer at County Council level to ensure that this is maximised and that friction situations can be addressed.                                                                                                      
  3. The issue of benefit to landowners is a central problem that needs to be addressed.  It would appear to Landscape Alliance Ireland that there is a fundamental inequity in expecting a landowner who happens to possess a resource, which is valuable for countryside recreation to suffer substantial financial losses because of such a situation.                                                                                            

In a democratic constitutional society such as Ireland structures will have to be put in place whereby cost is borne by the community rather than the individual landowner.                                                                                                                

It is appreciated that this raises complex issues, but there is little point in continuously running away from them just because they are complex.


An avenue worth examining is the provision of parking facilities. There is an acceptance in the urban landscape that parking charges will be levied. This also occurs in the countryside to a limited degree.


Land owners should be permitted to provide secure parking facilities and to charge for them. This would generate an income, provide a needed facility and reduce accident risks on often narrow roads.


  1. Responsible, considerate behaviour in the countryside is as important as it is in urban centres and anti-social behaviour can take many forms.  It is equally important to address such behaviour in a rural setting as it is in an urban setting.


  1. Countryside recreation needs to be viewed as an important dimension of the overall hilt of a community and is deserving of its funding and also attention to education and training.                                                                                                        

Short courses should be developed on a module bases for all organisations involved and indeed for the ordinary citizen and participation in such courses should be made as accessible as possible throughout the country.


Participation in such courses could be compulsory for certain recreational activities.                                                                                                                                                            


Role of Landscape Alliance Ireland in Surmounting The Above Obstacles:


Over the past 10 years Landscape Alliance Ireland has organised a series of open fora bringing all the players together who are involved in any way with our landscape, rural or urban.              


The provision of a platform by Landscape Alliance Ireland to all of these parties has helped in some way to reducing some of the fears and increasing the level of understanding from the point of view of each party.


Delegates to National Landscape For a are encouraged to bring their own agenda but to take home part at least of someone else’s agenda.     


Landscape Alliance Ireland is very involved at a European level with the advancement of the European Landscape Convention which is very much linked to the concept of recreation within the landscape both rural and urban.


Landscape Alliance Ireland would be willing to use to its network of contact across Europe to seek out examples of best practice and to forward such contacts in due course.


The concept of a countryside recreation strategy appears to be emerging simultaneously across Europe .


As you are probably aware a Countryside Recreation Strategy for Northern Ireland was published in November 1998. The NI Countryside Access & Activities Network is a useful source at  


Landscape Alliance Ireland Observations on the Current Structure Membership of Comhairle na Tuaithe


There are a vast range of organisations and bodies involved in the issue of countryside recreation. 


Ideally all of these should at least have membership of Comhairle na Tuaithe and be on the information network.


It would be desirable that each year a conference would take place where all of the members would be invited to send delegates.


The composition of a council for the Comhairle na Tuaithe would need to be sufficiently small to be effective and yet sufficiently representive to ensure that all parties are kept on side.


We would suggest that the membership be broken down into a number of pillars and that the council would then have equal representation from each of the pillars, this would assist towards achieving a good balance, though sustaining balance in such a body requires committed attention due to the variation in resources, particularly in voluntary bodies.


This submission was prepared for Landscape Alliance Ireland by Terry O’Regan, LAI Co-ordinator and Cathy Buchanan , LAI Research Officer. It does not claim to represent the consensus view of members, but is intended to embody the objectives of Landscape Alliance Ireland . It will be placed on our web site shortly and members will be invited to comment/contribute and any feedback received will be forwarded at a later date for possible consideration under the consultation process.




Landscape Alliance Ireland ,

Old Abbey Gardens ,


Near Cork City .


Tel. 353 21 4871460

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