Coastal Access go ahead in Weymouth

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 27/01/2012

The BMC today welcomed the news by the Secretary of State for the Environment that Natural England’s coastal access report for Weymouth Bay has been approved and that work will begin shortly on developing a coastal footpath and wider coastal access along this stretch of coast.

The BMC is particularly relieved that the Secretary of State has made sensible decisions in respect of several objections to the coastal access proposals.  Specifically the recognition that climbing is a permitted activity under both the new access provisions and in areas of existing open access as defined by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. 

There was some concern for example, that climbing would be prohibited along the stretch of coast from Durdle Door to Stair Hole but this will not be the case.  Following discussions between Natural England, the landowner and the BMC, it is envisaged that some voluntary seasonal climbing restrictions will be put in place along this stretch of coast in order to protect some important species of cliff nesting bird, but these restrictions will be based on the ‘least restrictive approach’ principle.

The Secretary of State considered a number of objections to the coastal access proposals but deemed that the majority of proposals set out in Natural England’s report struck a “fair balance” between private and public rights. 

The new access provisions will be rolled out along this stretch of coast which runs from Rufus Castle on Portland to Lulworth Cove, in time for the 2012 Olympics sailing events. The full DEFRA press release can be read here.

The BMC and the Ramblers have campaigned hard for a right of access to the English coast for walkers and climbers and will continue to press on Government the need to continue rolling out our coastal access rights around the whole of the English Coast.  Since the coalition Government came into power, work has only begun on small stretches of coast in 6 areas (Weymouth Bay, Durham, Norfolk, Kent, Somerset, Cumbria), despite the Marine & Coastal Access Act receiving Royal Assent in 2009.

In Wales, access to the coast is governed in a different way.  The Coastal Access Improvement Programme (CAIP) aims to improve existing rights of way and to develop new routes to establish a continuous Wales Coast Path – this path is set to be launched in May of this year; there is currently no wider coastal margin.  The BMC is campaigning for a more holistic approach to coastal access in Wales which sees a coastal path with guaranteed views of the sea and a margin of wider open access to match those proposals in England.


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