The government’s pledge to speed up access improvements around England’s coast has been welcomed by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) – the representative body for climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers in England and Wales.
Speaking at the RSPB’s Conference for Nature in Westminster today, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that additional funding will be put in place to accelerate the delivery of the coastal path so that it will be fully complete by 2020.
Dr Cath Flitcroft, access and conservation policy officer at the BMC commented: “This announcement is an important milestone in the government’s commitment to improving coastal access in England. The BMC is delighted by this further promise to roll-out the coastal access programme. This will benefit walkers, as well as climbers who will be able to access England’s world class sea cliff climbing venues in perpetuity.”
“We've been campaigning for improved coastal access from the start. What we are interested in is not just the path but the associated spreading room* which allows open access to the seaward side of the coast path including important access to the cliffs and foreshore.”
The passing of the Marine and Coastal Access Act in 2009 was a historic event which provides both a right to walk along the full 4,345km (2,700 miles) of England’s coastline and a permanent right of access to a coastal margin around the coast, including beaches and access to sea cliffs – benefitting climbers and walkers alike.
Outdoor organisations including the BMC and the Ramblers have campaigned hard for improved coastal access from the start. More recently, we have been urging MPs to keep pressure on government to fully support the roll-out of the England Coast Path and spreading room* and for government to confirm its financial commitment and set a clear completion date for the path and coastal margin. It has been one of the BMC's key actions for government in our BMC Access Manifesto.
The benefits of improved coastal access are clear: it will boost the rural economy at the same time as bringing recreational opportunities and associated health benefits. The coast offers vital opportunities for public recreation, including weird and wonderful coastal walks and over 10,000 climbing routes, many of which are world renowned.
According to Natural England’s coastal audit in 2008/09, only two-thirds of the English coast had legally secure satisfactory paths and these are regularly interrupted by sections without public access. It also estimated that 17% of the coast is rapidly eroding and so some public footpaths will be lost within 20 years.
The announcements follow on from the Secretary of State’s recent approval for a stretch of coast in Somerset in July and the official opening of the first stretches of the England Coast Path in Cumbria and Durham in spring 2014.
The BMC will remain vigilant; keeping a watchful eye on the commitments made today. We will continue to call on MPs to keep pressure on the current government to:
Ensure government follow through with their commitment to increase financial support for the coastal access programme, particularly given the relatively low cost of implementation;
Recognise the importance of the England Coast Path and its associated spreading room to the economic, health and well-being of all, particularly in light of Government’s support for the Britain on Foot campaign to encourage more people to be active outdoors;
Ensure government adhere to the proposed timetable.
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Notes to editors
• For further information please contact Dr Cath Flitcroft (BMC access & conservation policy officer) on 0161 438 3333 / 07932 801351 / firstname.lastname@example.org or Tina Gardner (BMC press & PR officer) on 0161 438 3337 / email@example.com
• *Spreading room refers to the area on the seaward side of the coast path where the public has a right on foot for activities such as walking and sea cliff climbing.
• The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) is the national representative body for climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers in England and Wales and is recognised as such by government. The BMC is committed to promoting the interests of climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers and good practice in all activities related to these pursuits. www.thebmc.co.uk
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• Visit the BMC’s media centre at www.thebmc.co.uk/media
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