Frequently asked questions
Is MOD land subject to CROW?
All MOD land was included in the original Countryside Agency (CA) (now Natural England) mapping exercise which identified land that fell into the mountain, moor, heath, down and common land categories. However the majority of MOD sites are subject to Military Byelaws. Under Schedule 1 Part I of the CROW Act these areas are excepted from this legislation.
What are MOD Byelaws?
Military Byelaws are Statutory Instruments which control both the military activity and public access at MOD sites. The byelaws are in place to ensure the safety of both the public and the troops and to minimise interruptions to military training. They can be enforced by uniformed soldiers, military police or civilian guards. The Military Lands Act 1892 is the overarching legislation.
Why aren’t all MOD ranges and training areas byelawed?
Some sites have never been subject to byelaws because public access was never an issue. Access rights were generally restricted to Public Rights of Way - or even non-existent. In other cases byelaws still relate to an original land holding which has been extended, however the byelaws were not updated. The current Byelaw Review should resolve these issues.
What is the Byelaw Review?
The Byelaw Review is an MOD wide review of all Defence properties that require byelaws. The review will refresh and update existing byelaws and create new byelaws, where needed, for sites that currently operate without them. Each byelaw will be open for public consultation on the MOD Byelaws Website (link found under Related Links) and notices placed in the local press. Copies will also be sent to Parish, District and County Councils. The review is expected to take several years to complete.
What is a Section 28 Direction and why does it need reviewing?
Section 28 of the CROW Act allows the Secretary of State for Defence to exclude or restrict access by direction to any land if this is felt necessary for the purposes of Defence or National Security. This authority has been passed to Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and in particular the Designated Officer.
A direction can be made indefinitely or for short and long term periods. Indefinite Directions are made when it is reasonable to assume that the areas require special arrangements for public access for the foreseeable future or until byelaws are applied under the current review. All indefinite Section 28 directions must be reviewed within 5 years. Twenty-one such directions were made by the MOD in 2007 which are thus due for review.
Does a S28 Direction exclude all access?
No - the direction only applies to CROW access rights. Any existing rights or permissions are not affected by this direction. The direction is applied where or when open access rights under CROW are considered to be unsafe due to the military activity undertaken or to impinge on the necessary delivery of training. Many of the areas covered by the existing Section 28 directions do have public access at times through Public Rights of Way and along permissive routes. Secure sites are sites where public access is not permitted.
Are the areas covered by a S28 Direction shown on Ordnance Survey (OS) and Natural England (NE) maps?
In discussion with OS, CA and Defra in 2007 it was felt appropriate for reasons of public safety and security that these areas would not be shown on public maps in line with land under Military Byelaws. These S28 direction areas will, therefore, not be seen as yellow colourwash on maps published by both OS and CA. Areas under existing s28 directions have been removed from the published maps, but will be returned to a yellow colourwash should this consultation lead to a revoking of the direction. This approach maintains public safety and site security.
What process does the direction review follow?
When the final maps of the habitat for CROW access land were produced MOD undertook a comprehensive review of all areas that were potentially affected. A risk assessment was undertaken at each site using a specific set of criteria to ensure a consistent approach was taken across England and Wales. Where we identified a high risk to safe public access and/or the military capability a s28 Direction was applied after a formal and consultative process was followed.
Twenty-one such directions were made in total by the MOD and 5 years later these directions are due for review. We have already undertaken an internal review of these directions to ensure that they are still valid and robust. It is our opinion that nineteen of the twenty one directions remain valid and should remain in place. It is proposed to revoke two of the original directions as there is no longer a valid defence requirement to exclude the public at these sites.
This review is now in the public domain as the next stage of this consultation process. There is a 28 day consultation period during which we will accept comments. At the end of the period the Secretary of State will take due regard of all comments made throughout the process and then finalise or revoke each direction.
Who is being consulted during the s28 direction review process?
The review consultation process is laid down in ‘The Access to the Countryside (Exclusions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003’. We are required to consult with:
- Local Access Forums
- British Association for Shooting and Conservation
- British Mountaineering Council
- Countryside Council for Wales (in respect of any land in or adjoining Wales)
- Country Land and Business Association
- National Farmers’ Union
- Open Spaces Society
- Ramblers’ Association
We are also required to inform the following of the direction:
- The Relevant Authority, (the National Park Authority, appropriate countryside body or Forestry Commissioners, depending on where the land subject to the direction is situated)
- The Access Authority for the area in which the land subject to the direction is situated
- The owner of the land, if it is reasonably practicable to do so.
- Furthermore, to enable the public opportunity to comment, all direction consultations can be viewed at the MOD Access and Recreation website as laid out in the Regulations
There are some military terms I do not understand on the direction form:
- Dry Training - military training that does not involve the use of live ammunition. It can involve vehicles (including armoured vehicles) and the use of blank ammunition and pyrotechnics to impart an element of realism
- Danger Area - an area where there is a risk that bullets or munitions could injure or kill people. The danger templates for all types of weapons are calculated by a technical advisory team and kept under review. They are designated by red flags (or red lamps at night) and signs warning of the danger
- Impact Area - the particular area within a danger area where shells or bombs land. Access is excluded to all personnel except authorised staff
- Pyrotechnics - fireworks that simulate the sounds or appearance of grenades, illumination flares or smoke shells. Safety rules apply
- Red Flag Rule - when the red flags are raised or red lamps are lit no public access is permitted
- Secure Site - a secure site is generally, but not always, subject to Military Byelaws. The public are excluded on the grounds of safety or security. The sites range from accommodation barracks to ammunition or fuel storage depots. A few training and test areas are also designated as secure sites. However, public access can sometimes be arranged through the Head of Establishment, particularly for groups interested in nature conservation at the site. Some sites hold periodic Open Days for the local community
For all operational issues in relation to CROW Act and other access issues on MOD land please contact the designated officer.