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Coastal Freedom for England
17 Nov 2009
The Marine and Coastal Access Bill gains Royal Assent in England.
The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) has been campaigning for years for Marine and Coastal access; on November 12th 2009 this initiative got the go ahead in the form of Royal Assent for the Marine and Coastal Access Bill.
The passing of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill is an historic event. The Bill will ensure the creation of better coastal access, with a new right to walk along the full 4,345km (2,700 miles) of England’s coastline and will provide a permanent right of access to a coastal margin. The BMC has repeatedly campaigned for the new access rights to extend from the mean low water mark to a point inland, and include areas such as beaches, the foreshore and cliffs. Providing rights of access to climb on England great sea cliffs.
The Minister for the Environment Huw Irranca-Davies specifically stated that:
“The interests of walkers and climbers, and of the organisations that represent the interests of those who walk or climb - for example, the Ramblers Association and the British Mountaineering Council - will be fully taken into account before any proposals for the route are finalised.”
Natural England, the government body responsible for implementing the bill, will now begin finalising plans for implementation. The creation of the coastal path and associated access to the coastal margin are expected to take up to ten years to implement and will cost around £50m. The route when complete, will link with the Welsh Coastal Path, due for completion by 2012. Scotland already has coastal access rights under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, so a right to walk the whole length of the British mainland coast will be created.
Natural England’s coastal access audit has confirmed that a third of England’s coastline does not currently have a safe and secure path around it – with these sections regularly alternating with the sections where such a path does exist. The new Act will create significant opportunities to develop new coastal routes, secure routes that are currently available only on a permissive basis, and replace the 13% of existing coastal paths that are expected to be lost to coastal erosion in the next 20 years.
Report by Clare Bond, with reference to the BMC and Natural England websites. Clare Bond is president of the UIAA Access Commission.