Walkers will gain access to almost half the English coast which has no right of way

Walkers will gain access to almost half the English coast which has no right of way

Access to the entire English coast will come a step closer on Thursday when the parliamentary bill introducing a new law is expected to receive Royal Assent.

The Marine and Coastal Access Act will then come into being, allowing for the first time the right to walk along the full 4,345km (2,700 miles) of England’s coastline. The law will open up nearly half the length where the public has no legal right of way.

The bill is the latest stage of the opening up of the English and Welsh countryside that began with the Labour Government’s Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Walkers’ campaign group the Ramblers welcomed the news that the landmark bill, which has been resisted by the landowners’ body the Country Land & Business Association, will become law this week.

Tom Franklin, chief executive of the Ramblers, said: “The passing into law of this historic bill will mark a victory for everyone who walks in this island nation. The Marine and Coastal Access Act will enshrine a very simple principle on the statute books – that everyone, no matter who they are, where they come from or how much money they have has the right to visit all parts of the coast which is so much a part of our heritage.

Tom Franklin: genuine congratulations

Tom Franklin: 'genuine congratulations'

“The Government deserves genuine congratulations for having introduced the bill, based on Natural England’s research. What is now needed now is a continued commitment to deliver access on the ground so people have a chance to enjoy the coast.”

Following Royal Assent – the final stage in a bill’s progress in which the Queen agrees to the passage of the law – the Government’s advisory body Natural England will work on the detail of the coastal trail, which will need secondary legislation to put it in place.

The process is expected to take up to ten years and is likely to cost £50m. The route will be waymarked, as other national trails and, when complete, will link with the Welsh Coastal Path, which is expected to be completed 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.

The passing of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill is the culmination of decades of campaigning by the Ramblers and other outdoor groups. The British Mountaineering Council has also lobbied hard for coastal access, particularly for climbers wanting to get to sea cliffs and stacks.

The Government and Natural England have assured householders on the coast that their privacy will not be compromised.

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