Access fewer areas

Coastal paths under threat

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Hundreds of miles of coastal pathways will remain out of bounds if the government listens to calls by the Country Land and Business Association to save £50 million by abandoning implementation of the Marine and Coastal Access Act. So claims the walkers’ rights organisation the Ramblers.

The act, introduced last year as an amendment to the Right to Roam legislation of 2000, started a decade long process by Natural England to enable walking on the country’s entire coastal path for the first time.

But the Country Land and Business Association, founded as the Country Landowners Association, has called the pathway “an unnecessary waste of money” because 80 per cent of the coast is already accessible and only half the remainder could be made so because of ports and military sites.

Natural England is now  preparing a stretch of the coast at Weymouth. Next year, work is due to begin in five other areas, including the stretch from Whitehaven to Allonby in Cumbria.

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Ian Brodie, member of the Ramblers and co-author with his wife of Cumbria County Council’s Cumbria Coastal Way: Morecambe Bay to Solway Firth guidebook, disputes the CLA’s figure of 80 per cent, as does Natural England, which says one-third of the English coastline has no legally secure, safe path and another 13 per cent could be lost to erosion over the next 20 years.

Health benefits

A CLA spokesman claimed landowners could be treated unfairly by the new legislation. “If you put your life savings into a nice house with a garden next to the coast and you find proposals that give walkers access then you’re not likely to be that happy,” he said.

But this was dismissed as “nonsense” by Brodie. “We don’t walk in people’s gardens,” he said. “Many landowners have been great in opening up access but others have not.

But with much of Britain’s countryside already open for business then wouldn’t it be better to save £50 million in these difficult times?

“It’s the equivalent of one mile of motorway and the 2,500 miles of coastal pathway that will be opened up will easily save such a sum in health benefits alone,” said Brodie, adding that places like St Bee’s Head in Cumbria had “a unique atmosphere”.

Photo: St Bee’s Head (Dave Dunford)

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