Landowners' liability? is perception of the risk of liability for visitors accidents a barrier to countryside access?

BENNETT, L. and CROWE, Lynn (2008). Landowners' liability? is perception of the risk of liability for visitors accidents a barrier to countryside access? Project Report. Sheffield, Countryside recreation network.


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The study seeks to analyse both the perception and reality of liability risk for owners of countryside land for injuries suffered by recreational visitors. The study starts by evaluating the relevant legislation and case law in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on countryside access and liability in tort for injury suffered by visitors to such places. In doing so it reviews legislation such as Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000, Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, Occupiers' Liability Acts 1957 & 1984, Animals Act 1971 and the Compensation Act 2006. Through appraisal of this legislation and key cases such as Tomlinson -v- Congleton Borough Council (2004) the actual level of liability risk is assessed to be low.

The study then investigates the rise of a pervasive discourse amongst policy makers, judiciary and senior business figures asserting the need to avoid further development of a risk adverse culture within the UK and/or to tackle a growth in the perceived "compensation culture". A link to deregulation and pro-entrepreneurship interests is shown. The reality of compensation claim rates and associated behaviours is then examined. Issues of liability risk perception are then addressed by reviewing in detail the limited available UK literature on liability perception by landowners and comparing this with evidence from the United States and New Zealand. Case studies of alleged risk adverse land management are then examined to test the evidence base for common assertions of excess regulation and/or withdrawal of access to land or facilities through fear of liability. Finally, the study explores (via interviews of 21 land managers and representative bodies) how liability risks are actually perceived by land owners and the extent of awareness of recent changes in discourse and case law regarding public safety issues. In doing so the study reveals the ways in which land managers in large pro-access agencies and utilities develop common standards and understandings around the level of "reasonably practicable" safety provision. The study concludes with recommendations for further research to investigate the way in which liability risk perceptions are formed by smaller landowners who are more remote from such "interpretive communities" (Fish 1980).

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Additional Information: This scoping study was commissioned by the Countryside Recreation Network, a consortium of public agencies and central and local government across the United Kingdom involved with the promotion of countryside access and recreation.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Built Environment Division Research Group
Law Research Group
Depositing User: Ann Betterton
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2009
Last Modified: 12 May 2021 19:05

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