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Local Access Forums

Local access forums are advisory bodies established under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 ("the Act"). They provide independent advice on public access to land, for open air-recreation and other 'functional' or 'utility' purposes.

There are over 80 forums covering almost the whole of England. There are no forums in London or the Isles of Scilly.

Local access forums have a wide remit in advising access authorities (local highway authorities and National Park authorities) and other bodies (such as Government departments, Natural England, the Forestry Commission, English Heritage, Sport England, AONB Conservation Boards, district councils, town and parish councils) on managing the public's right of access to open country and registered common land, management and improvement of public rights of way, as well as public access issues more generally within the local area

The bodies to which it is the legal function of forums to give advice are collectively known as "section 94(4) bodies". Section 94(4) bodies are legally required to have regard to relevant advice from a forum.

The Local Access Forums (England) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007 No 268) set out detailed provisions on the operation of forums and replace the earlier regulations made in 2002.

Huw Irranca-Davies recently wrote to all local highway authority Chief Executives, and all local access forums, to highlight the importance of the work the forums carry out.

Contacting your local access forum

Each forum meets at least twice per year, but generally more often. Members of the public are usually entitled to attend meetings and may be permitted to speak.

Basic information, and contact details for most forums in England , is available on the Natural England website. To find out about your local forum, and when the next forum meeting is to take place, you should contact the appointing authority - this will be the local highway authority (it is usually best to ask for the Rights of Way team or Countryside Service) or National Park authority. Some local access forums have their own web page.

Forum membership

Forum members are appointed by the appointing authority (the local highway authority or a National Park authority) to represent the interests of people who use the right of access to open country and registered common land, and public rights of way, as well as owners/occupiers of land affected. Members can also be appointed to represent other interests relevant to the area such tourism, sport or nature conservation.

Members serve in a personal capacity to represent interests rather than particular organisations. The appointing authority must ensure there is a reasonable balance between user and landowners/occupier interests.

How to become a forum member

Vacancies will be advertised locally. Members are selected by the appointing authority which will need to maintain a reasonable balance of interests. Contact your local highway authority or National Park authority to find out when vacancies are expected to arise.

Members are unpaid although may be reimbursed for travel and subsistence costs, or for expenses incurred in the care of children or dependents.

Guidance for forum members and local authorities

This Guidance, issued by the Secretary of State, is relevant to forum members, appointing authorities, forum secretaries, section 94(4) bodies and anyone wanting to find out about the role and work of forums.

On 28 May 2009 Defra wrote to all LAFs in order to issue LAF members with the recent modifications to this guidance. The guidance was modified to reflect a few technical changes and recent developments.

As this was not a comprehensive review of the Guidance we decided against re-issuing hard copies. If you already keep a hard copy, you can simply update your version by inserting this letter into it, to ensure readers are aware of the amendments.LAF members will have received a copy of this letter from their LAF secretaries. This letter will show you at a glance, what changes have been made.

Further information, and original hard copies (or an audio copy) of the Guidance, can be obtained from:

The Recreation and Access Team,
Zone 1/02
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol BS1 6EB


Further Guidance

Letter to all LAFs about Rights of Way Improvement Plans (ROWIPs) (PDF 56 KB)

Handbook for Local Access Forum Members

This handbook has been commissioned by Natural England and has been written specifically for local access forum members. The handbook contains key facts and useful aspects of access as well as specific guidance about the general practicalities of running a Local Access Forum.

Further information about the Local Access Forum Handbook can be found at

Background information on the Statutory Framework

Local access forums are established under sections 94 and 95 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 . Section 94 imposes a duty on local highway authorities and National Park authorities ("appointing authorities") to establish forums for their area. Section 95 contains supplementary provisions relating to the appointment of members and other matters.

The Local Access Forums (England) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007 No 268) set out detailed provisions on the operation of forums.

The text of recent UK legislation (including both the Countryside and Rights of Way Act and the Local Access Forums Regulations) can be viewed online in the UK Statute Law Database (but note the limitations which apply to the information presented on the website).

Page last modified: 29 June 2009
Page published: 23 October 2008