The coalition Government has announced it will consult the public on extending the England Coast Path to the Isle of Wight.
The island was excluded from provisions to allow access to the English coastline, but now the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is looking at extending the scope of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.
The first section of the path round England’s coast was officially opened at round Weymouth Bay in Dorset last month.
Defra is seeking views from scores of bodies and members of the public on the impact of extending the act’s provisions to the 92km of coastline on the island.
At present, only islands that can be reached by walking from the mainland are covered by the legislation.
But Defra said: “The coastal access duty may be applied provided the Secretary of State is satisfied ‘that the coast of the island is of sufficient length to enable the establishment of one or more long-distance routes along its length capable of affording the public an extensive journey on foot’.
“The Isle of Wight has a coastline of about 70 miles, and the Secretary of State considers that this condition as to the length of the coast is satisfied.”
If Defra decides to go ahead, following the public consultation, it will then be up to advisory body Natural England to come up with a timetable for setting up the coastal route on the Isle of Wight.
Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said: “We are delighted that Defra is at last considering adding the Isle of Wight to the coastal-access plan.
“We could never understand why it was excluded and during the passage of the bill pressed many times for its inclusion.
“It has a magnificent coastline and is an important tourist destination. If there is a right for people to walk right round the coast, with additional spreading room for public access, it will ensure that residents and visitors can truly enjoy this spectacular island as well as boosting the income from tourism.”
Natural England is currently working on establishing coastal access on a further five stretches of the English coast in Cumbria, Durham, Kent, Norfolk and Somerset and Defra said Natural England’s aim is to introduce the right of access on all of these five stretches between now and the end of 2015.
Representations can be made online via the Defra website.