Walkers views need to be taken into account

Walkers' views 'need to be taken into account'

England’s coastal access process risks being one-sided, skewed towards the views of landowners, according to Britain’s biggest walking group.

The Ramblers are urging the Government to let the public have a say in where the new coastal path will be. The campaigning charity says local people will be put at a disadvantage under arrangements being debated by Parliament.

The Access to the Countryside (Coastal Margin) (England) Order is secondary legislation necessary to set out the procedures to be followed to set up the path round England’s coast. But, though landowners’ view will be taken into account, the right of user groups to be consulted over Natural England’s draft reports was only included after lobbying by the Ramblers.

Justin Cooke, Ramblers senior campaign officer, said: “The Marine and Coastal Access Act places a duty on Natural England to consider the views of the public and landowners equally, but so far the plans run the risk that only landowners will be listened to.

“Natural England’s scheme is the blueprint for putting the path in place, and is very big on reassuring landowners that their views will be listened to. It even says that that they will meet each one and ‘walk the course’ with them before publishing any proposals or letting local people or the public know what they are planning.

“The views of local people, the public and walkers need to be equally taken into account.

“Coastal access is a visionary piece of legislation which will bring huge economic and cultural benefits to the public for these and future generations. The Government and Natural England are to be applauded for supporting the scheme. It’s important that we get the implementation right.”

The Ramblers say they are seeking firmer commitments and changes to Natural England’s scheme when it is debated by Parliament later in the year, so bodies representing user groups and the public will be consulted at the earliest stage of Natural England’s work.

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