PEOPLE can have their say on proposals to extend access to large areas of the County Durham countryside.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, grants a general right to walk on "access land".

The Countryside Agency is producing eight draft maps for the whole of England. The western half of County Durham is in mapping area 4, the Upper North-West region.

The draft map, which includes Derwentside, Teesside and Wear Valley, can be inspected and people can give their comments on it.

It is available at County Hall, Durham, between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am to noon on Saturdays.

Maps for the districts can also be seen at the appropriate district council offices and at libraries in Barnard Castle and Consett.

The consultation lasts until March 10. The Countryside Agency is holding a road show at Witham Hall, Barnard Castle, today, from 12.30pm to 7.30pm.

A Countryside Agency spokesman said: "The new rights are mainly for access on foot. Other activities, such as camping or horse riding, are not included under the act although they may be permitted under certain circumstances. There will sometimes have to be restrictions on the new access rights for reasons such as land management, public safety, nature and heritage conservation.

"It is important to understand that there are a lot of preparations to be made before the new rights can come fully into effect. In particular, the Countryside Agency has to map all the open country and registered common land in England.''