There has been much speculation over the past few weeks as to how Government cuts will affect the roll out of the new coastal access provisions around the coast of England.
This week Natural England has released an official statement. The latest information on work to secure a long distance walking trail and associated spreading room around the open coast of England suggests that as a result of a five percent reduction to this year’s budget Natural England will be assessing the scope and delivery of some of its in-year programmes. Five local authorities (Cumbria, East Riding of Yorkshire, Somerset, Kent and Norfolk) are involved in the implementation of the first phases of the roll out of the All England Coastal Path. Work at the Weymouth stretch of the coast path is continuing but the five local authorities have been informed that the scale and scope of the initial roll out in their areas will need to be reduced to accommodate the reductions in this year’s budget.
However, there is still uncertainty over what will happen beyond the establishment of the initial section near Weymouth, which is due to be ready to coincide with the 2012 Olympic sailing events.
Earlier media reports are incorrect in informing the public that the coastal access project has been shelved; the availability of funding for a wider rollout of coastal access schemes will become clearer following the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) process expected to be completed in October.
Natural England is continuing with the roll out in the five pilot areas and will await clarification from the CSR process about the long term budget that is likely to be available for funding rollout in these areas and elsewhere. However, this week the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for the Natural Environment and coastal access, Richard Benyon MP, confirmed that Government had not stopped the roll out of the English coastal access path indefinitely but “shall be looking at the implementation according to the resources available”.
The BMC has campaigned long and hard to secure better coastal access around our English coast and were heavily involved with shaping Part 9 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act as it went through Parliament under the previous Government. It would be a real disappointment in the present climate if our new Coalition were to decide this was not a priority in shaping our ‘Big Society’ particularly as coastal access will involve volunteers and the wider community working together to create a grassroots scheme. In the mean time, the BMC and the Ramblers will be continuing with their training programme for coastal access volunteers.
The BMC in the coming week will be launching a campaign to help ensure the delivery of better coastal access remains high on the political agenda.
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