Proposals for public access to one of England’s best known stretches of coastline have been published.
The Government’s advisers on the outdoors are now asking for views on coastal access along the White Cliffs of Dover and stretches of the shore in Kent.
Natural England’s public consultation is part of the process to set up a coastal access corridor along 60km (37 miles) of Kentish shore, from Ramsgate to Folkestone.
The measures, under the Marine and Coastal Access Act introduced by the last Labour government, are the latest in the slow process of setting up the England Coast Path, the first stretch of which was opened round Weymouth Bay in time for the Olympic sailing events.
Natural England, the Government’s advisory body estimates the setting up of access along the Kent coast will cost £57,000, with an annual maintenance bill of almost £18,000, though some of the route is already covered by rights of way that cost £8,000 a year in upkeep.
The famous white chalk cliffs are subject to coastal erosion and under the plans Natural England would be able to ‘roll back’ the coastal access corridor further inland if necessary.
A large deviation inland is also deemed necessary around Pegwell Bay and the Stour estuary make a straightforward coastal route impractical and would involve crossing salt marshes that are sensitive nature conservation areas.
Natural England and Kent County Council have met landowners to ‘walk the course’ and discuss where the new route could go. Discussions have also been held with other interested groups such as the Ramblers and British Mountaineering Council.
The 12-week consultation opened yesterday.
James Seymour, area manager for Natural England said: “We have had discussions with landowners and key organisation along the proposed route. Their input has been essential and helped shape the draft proposals.
“We thank everyone for their time and input so far.
“Over the next 12 weeks we are inviting all organisations, farmers, local residents, visitors and businesses to have their say. It’s important that all responses are taken into account and we look forward to hearing people’s views.”
Mike Hill, Kent County Council cabinet member for customer and communities, said: “Working with Natural England the county council has put in a great deal of effort to deliver a new national trail that will show off the very best of Kent’s fantastic historic and natural coastline.
“When complete the route will deliver significant social and economic benefits to our coastal communities and be a great recreational resource for the people of Kent.
“This series of consultation events is a great opportunity for the wider public to have input into the proposals; we would urge residents and landowners to have their say on this potentially great asset to our county.”
The consultation will end on Friday 9 November. More details, including maps of the areas in the plans, are on the Natural England website.