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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