Poor access around our English coast

Posted by Cath Flitcroft on 10/08/2009
BMC campaign for a coastal access corridor

Natural England have published maps showing that almost 1000 miles of England’s coastline is either inaccessible or lacks secure access.

The findings were released following an extensive audit into existing access to England’s coast by Natural England, in partnership with 53 local access authorities. A series of maps have been published showing the huge differences between regions in the provision of public access to the coast.

In particular, the audit has highlighted the fact that there is no satisfactory or legally secure access to 34% of the English coast and in the North West, poor access has been recorded at over half the coast (56%). Access is best in the South West where full public access extends to 76% of the coast. The audit also estimates that 13% of existing coastal rights of way could be lost to erosion in the next 20 years.

Natural England’s findings have above all highlighted the importance of the Marine & Coastal Access Bill which the Commons Committee finished considering on the 14th July. Part 9 of the Bill (Coastal Access) aims to improve public access to and enjoyment of the English coastline, providing secure and consistent rights for people to enjoy the coast with confidence and certainty. It will do this by making a coastal margin available for access around the coast of England. Within this margin people will be able to walk along the length of the English coast, and in addition will have access to suitable coastal land such as beaches, cliffs, rocks and dunes, for open-air recreation on foot – great news for walkers and climbers.

The Secretary of State and Natural England will be given a new duty to provide this improved public access. The legislation will be implemented by Natural England which will propose a series of long-distance routes around the coast of England. They will develop a proposed route in consultation with local people, and local access authorities, and propose a route in a report to the Secretary of State.

The publication of the maps today forms the first look at where efforts will need to be focused in delivering on the provisions of the Marine & Coastal Access Bill. For full details of the findings and to download the maps click here.

The Bill, as amended by the Commons Committee, has been reprinted and will now be reported to the House after the summer Recess. Parliament returns on 12th October but a date has yet to be published for Report to the House of Commons. Further amendments may be made to the Bill at Report stage before the Bill receives a Third Reading. Amendments made to the Bill in the House of Commons go back to the House of Lords for consideration. Once both Houses agree to the content of the Bill it will proceed to Royal Assent towards the end of the year.

The BMC has continued to lobby members of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons on what we would like to see from the Bill. We have also been involved in all of the DEFRA and Natural England consultations on how best to implement and achieve a successful Coastal Access Bill. For more details on what the BMC have been lobbying for, download the most recent House of Commons briefing paper and the House of Lords briefing paper here.
 



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