After years of campaigning, the BMC welcomes the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, which received Royal Assent on Thursday 12 November.
The passing of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill is an historic event. The Bill will ensure the creation of better coastal access, with a new right to walk along the full 4,345km (2,700 miles) of England’s coastline and will provide a permanent right of access to a coastal margin around the coast (including beaches and cliffs).
The BMC and the Ramblers have campaigned hard to ensure that a permanent right of access to our coast will be provided for through the Bill. The BMC has repeatedly campaigned for the new access rights to extend from the mean low water mark to a point inland, and include areas such as beaches, the foreshore and cliffs.
The Marine and Coastal Access Bill has received cross –party support and will strike a fair balance between the needs of landowners whose land the new rights will pass through and the visitor to the coast. The Minister for the Environment Huw Irranca-Davies specifically stated that:
“The interests of walkers and climbers, and of the organisations that represent the interests of those who walk or climb - for example, the Ramblers Association and the British Mountaineering Council - will be fully taken into account before any proposals for the route are finalised.”
Following Royal Assent – the final stage in the Bill’s progress when the Queen agrees to the passage of the law – the Government’s advisory body Natural England will begin finalising the scheme and how the new rights will be implemented on the ground. Dr. Catherine Flitcroft, Access and Conservation officer said that:
“This marks an important moment in the publics’ right to access our beautiful coastline, for walking, climbing and other sporting activities, and we have been campaigning hard for this for some time. It is now important the new rights are implemented as quickly and smoothly as possible. We will be asking our access volunteers around the coast to work closely with local authorities as the scheme develops.”
The creation of the coastal path and associated coastal margin are expected to take up to ten years to implement and is likely to cost £50m. The route when complete, will link with the Welsh Coastal Path, which is expected to be completed by 2012. Scotland already has coastal access rights under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, so a right to walk the whole length of the British mainland coast will be created.
A more detailed feature article on what the Bill and the new legislation means for the BMC and how it will provide for better access to our English coast will follow in the new year.
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