Guidance

Local Access Forums: role of the local authority

As a local authority or national park authority, find out what responsibilities you have for your LAF.

LAFs are established under sections 94 and 95 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and are governed by The Local Access Forums (England) Regulations 2007.

As a local authority or a national park authority, you’re the appointing authority for Local Access Forums (LAFs) in your area.

You must make sure all your area (excluding London) is covered by a LAF without any overlap between forums.

You have the power to:

  • establish a new LAF
  • merge a LAF with another to create a joint forum
  • change the area covered by a LAF
  • withdraw from a joint forum arrangement

You must consult with any LAFs or other appointing authorities that might be affected before making any changes.

Appointing members

You have responsibility for appointing members for your LAF. You should make sure the appointment process is fair and transparent by:

  • following your policies on social inclusion and diversity
  • consulting with relevant individuals and organisations, like groups of local rights of way users or land managers

You must advertise LAF vacancies in local newspapers and on your website, except for the appointment of anyone who:

  • is a member of a district, county council or the national park authority which is covered by the LAF
  • has their membership terminated so that they can join another LAF which is also under the appointing authority’s responsibility

You should make sure that your LAF has between 10 and 22 members. If membership of your LAF falls below 10 members, you should appoint new members as soon as possible.

Keep a balance of members’ interests

You should make sure there’s a reasonable balance of interests in the LAF to represent a range of views from the local community. Members should include:

  • users of local rights of way or open access land (eg walkers, horse riders and cyclists)
  • owners or occupiers of land which has a public right of access
  • representatives of issues relevant to the area, such as tourism, nature and heritage conservation, coastal issues, health, public transport or community safety

Members of the local or national park authority can sit on a forum, however, there mustn’t be more than:

  • 2 for LAFs with up to 16 members
  • 3 for LAFs with 17 or more members

Setting the terms of appointment

You’re responsible for setting and informing LAF members about the terms of their appointment. Within these, you should specify that:

  • a LAF member is appointed for a term of between 1 and 3 years
  • there isn’t a limit to the number of times a member can be appointed to the forum
  • a member can resign from the LAF by providing you with written notice
  • you can terminate the appointment of a member if they:
    • become a member of the district or county council, or the national park authority within the area covered by the LAF and the relevant limit has been reached
    • are absent from LAF meetings for a year without agreement from the appointing authority
    • fail to declare an interest

Funding

You are responsible for the costs of running your LAF. This includes paying for:

  • employing a secretary for the LAF
  • members expenses: travel and subsistence and child care
  • the publication of the LAF’s annual report

Money to pay for your LAF should come from either your revenue support grant from the government, or from Defra’s funding to national park authorities.

Training LAF members

You should help LAF members to identify what training they need and provide resources to help them get it.

Support to your LAF

You’re responsible for:

  • providing a secretary for your LAF
  • making sure that a copy of the LAF meeting agenda and any relevant reports are available for public viewing at least 3 days before the meeting
  • keeping a copy of the meeting minutes, agenda and reports available for public viewing for at least 2 years after the meeting
  • publishing your LAF’s annual report
  • making sure that your LAF follows the regulations and fulfils its statutory function

You should also raise awareness about the work of your LAF by:

  • helping to produce a forum newsletter, leaflet or website
  • holding events
  • sharing information with other employees and members of the local or national park authority

As you are likely to be the main recipient of advice from the LAF you should also:

  • help develop criteria to measure how effective your LAF is
  • give advice on which issues are most important to you, so that your LAF can plan its work accordingly

Other responsibilities

You must have regard for any relevant advice given by a LAF before carrying out your functions.

You must consult your LAF before:

  • preparing or reviewing rights of way improvement plans
  • making any byelaws that affect open access land
  • appointing or reviewing the use of wardens on open access land
  • making any changes to LAF arrangements

You should also provide your LAF with relevant reports and give feedback on the advice your LAF has given.

You have a responsibility to provide Natural England with:

  • a copy of the LAF’s annual report within 21 days of publication
  • the name and contact details for the LAF secretary within 21 days of their appointment
  • details of any change to how your LAF operates, such as a change to the area covered by a LAF, merging your LAF with another forum or splitting up a joint forum

Get a copy of the statutory guidance

Email LAF@naturalengland.org.uk to request a copy of the Local Access Forums in England statutory guidance document.

Published 27 March 2015