Coastal access: Ed Douglas goes behind the headlines

Posted by Ed Douglas on 07/02/2012
BMC lobbying has paid off at Lulworth Cove, Dorset.

Last week, BMC lobbying on coastal access paid off when Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the Environment, rejected several possible restrictions to climbing at Lulworth Cove.

Most importantly, she recognised that climbing is “a permitted activity” not just under existing Countryside and Rights of Way legislation, but also under the 2009 Maritime and Coastal Access Act.

The news emerged from the Government’s announcement that work on the first stretch of the new coastal path around England will begin soon, following Government approval for Natural England’s access report on the initial 20-mile section. Linking Rufus Castle and Lulworth, the section was chosen for its proximity to Olympic sailing events.

This was a really important decision. First, because the cliffs involved – along the stretch of coast between Durdle Door and Stair Hole – were already mapped as open access under CRoW. Had the new legislation trumped CRoW then the situation would have been damaging to climbing interests wherever the two designations overlap.

Spelman also acknowledged that Natural England had struck a “fair balance” on the majority of objections made during consultation over the path’s route. These included demands from the landowner at Lulworth that climbing should be restricted because of nesting birds. By finding in the BMC’s favour, access to sea cliffs now has a much brighter future.

The BMC will now look at placing voluntary restrictions on certain routes at Lulworth when it becomes necessary, but in the longer term, the campaign for coastal access must continue. The legislation for coastal access will soon be three years old but progress towards fulfilling it is painfully slow.

Consultation on six sections of 30km each around England’s coast is underway. But there’s no word yet on when this process will be completed and when a timetable for designation the rest of the coast will be announced. Alongside the Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society, the BMC will continue to raise the issue with the Secretary of State, asking for more information about the Government’s plans.

Coastal access is a great idea, and could be a wealth creator for British tourism – there’s no reason to delay.

The BMC will also be paying careful attention to the scheduled review of CRoW mapping. There has been no word yet from the Government on when and how this will take place. The BMC has identified changes around the country that could improve access to crags and will be watching to make sure that the review is done thoroughly and in the interests of everyone, not just landowners.
 



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Anonymous User
26/02/2012
So can I climb at durdle door?
Anonymous User
27/02/2012
I am happy to post this comment under my own name as Anthony Sperryn, member of two BMC associated clubs. (I couldn't delete "Anonymous")
This article fills me with grave apprehension.
Lulworth Cove is (or was when I last saw it) a beautiful place. Durdle Door is a precious natural feature, unique, as far as I know, in the south of England and the whole site is not very large.
Coastal access is all very well, but what I fear is that climbing activity will cause damage to this natural feature.
It is one thing to have children in their flip-flops exploring it, but to have climbers festooning it with their ropes, bashing in loads of pegs, pulling out chunks of rock as they place their protection etc. does not seem to me to be desirable - a few years of that sort of activity and it will all be eroded away.
The place is precious and needs to be preserved. People need to be able to take their pictures without the clutter of climbers and climbing equipment spoiling them. There are lots of other places, besides Lulworth Cove, for people to do their macho stuff.
Please explain what the BMC was thinking of when it was lobbying.
Anonymous User
11/03/2012
Anthony, I think most of your fears are probably unfounded.

Ropes would only be in place while climbers were actually in the process of climbing it and I don't think there would ever be likely to be enough climbers on routes for the word "festooned" to be appropriate. Ropes are rarely even easily visible from a distance.

Pegs are very rarely used nowadays and are generally frowned upon except in very specific circumstances (generally replacing existing pegs).

It is also very unusual for the placing of protection to involve "pulling out chunks of rock". The bits of rock that come off aren't really where you want to be placing protection!

Finally, the cove now seems to be used more for soloing than roped climbing which reduces the problems of ropes and gear still further.
02/07/2012
Steve Taylor - BMC Access rep for Swanage...

From 29th June 2012 the section of the England Coastal Path is now open. A Code of Practice for climbers in the Lulworth area is being produced by all parties involved (Natural England, Weld Estate, Dorset County Council, Dorset Countryside Rangers, Jurassic Coast Team and BMC) which will define appropriate behaviours when climbing in the area. This includes being aware of other users of the coastline, no gardening of new routes, a moratorium on the placing of new bolts and a reminder that climbers must not disturb nesting birds. There is no current need for voluntary bird restrictions, as there are no Schedule 1 birds nesting in any of the climbing areas.

The tall, loose cliff and the steep slopes between Church Rock and the entrance to Stair Hole will be decalred as a sanctuary zone. The only impact on climbers here is that we will be asked to help install discrete signage asking peope to avoid these sensitive areas.

As such, the previous "ban" on climbing in the Lulworth Area has now been lifted.

It goes without saying, hoever, that climbers must act responsibly or there could be a call for restrictions to be re-visited...

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