Thousands of property owners in England and Wales will be contacted by UK Government officials from Natural England over the next few weeks to negotiate details of a 10 metre wide public corridor around the entire UK coastline. This includes the Royal family whose Sandringham estate in Norfolk still bars walkers from several miles of picturesque seashore.
Off-Grid welcomes this move to free the historic 9040 miles of coastline which, in the words of Environment Secretary David Miliband yesterday, “tackles the unfinished business of opening Britain’s land to the people”
Access and wildlife groups will be asked to help reach agreements on complicated stretches of land, including headlands and cliff-encircled coves the government is determined to bring within the scheme.
Mr Miliband said: “The success of the ‘right to roam’ on open countryside has shown that people are responsible about increased access and want to enjoy it in a mature way. That greatly encourages us to press ahead with opening up the coast.”
Although Scotland has a well-established corridor, which is used as a model for the new scheme, 30% of England’s 2,500 miles of coast is still private. A recent survey commissioned by the Ramblers’ Association found that 94% of people wanted a legal right of access to the coast.
The consultation will cover route width, which is unlikely to exceed 10 metres, and exemptions for sensitive wildlife sites, although the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs wants to limit diversions as far as possible.
Measures to allow the path to gradually move inland on eroding cliffs are also up for debate, along with waymarking.
Mr Miliband said compensation for loss of property value, which has been the main issue for objectors, was not considered likely to be a major concern.
“We are not talking about people having to face crowds walking over their lawns,” he said.
“Compensation has scarcely arisen as an issue under the right to roam, which has seen very few attempts to get redress.”
He added: “People want access to the coast because they love it, not because they want to damage it.
“Walkers along parts of the coast which have previously been barred are more likely to pick up litter than to leave it.”
Costly and long-term
Establishing a complete path around the shoreline is expected to cost
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