Climbing on the coast near Swanage, Dorset. Photo: Jim Champion CC-BY-SA-2.0

Climbing on the coast near Swanage, Dorset. Photo: Jim Champion CC-BY-SA-2.0

The British Mountaineering Council is urging climbers and walkers to write to their MPs to put pressure on the Government to honour its responsibility to forge ahead with English coastal access.

The council which, along with the Ramblers, campaigned for the all-England coastal access corridor, said the issue needs to be kept high on the political agenda.

Cath Flitcroft, the BMC’s access and conservation officer, said the Make the Most of the Coast campaign was aimed at making the coalition Government realise the importance and economic potential of better coastal access to our beautiful English coastline and urge them to move ahead with the roll out of Natural England’s scheme over the coming years.

The future of the coastal path and its associated access to climbing cliffs was put in doubt by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government public expenditure cuts, with Tom Lewis, a manager at Natural England, saying the cost of the national scheme was ‘no longer acceptable in the current economic climate’.

Mr Lewis said “We are now being realistic and flexible and looking at what we will be able to deliver in terms of coastal access in certain areas.

“I can safely say we will not see an All England Coast Path in the next 10 years as was planned.”

Only a short section near Weymouth, site of the Olympic sailing events in 2012, is certain to go ahead as planned, with other pilot schemes being scaled back as the Government cuts hit Natural England and local authorities.

Dr Flitcroft: real threat of delay to coastal access

Dr Flitcroft: real threat of delay to coastal access

Dr Flitcroft said: “The BMC has campaigned long and hard to secure better coastal access around our English coast and were heavily involved with shaping Part Nine of the Marine and Coastal Access Act as it went through Parliament under the previous Government.

“We are now urging the new coalition, in light of Government expenditure cuts, to continue with the roll out of Natural England’s coastal access scheme.

“There is currently a lack of clarity and consistency in access arrangements along the coast of England and there are many areas that remain inaccessible. Part Nine of the Marine and Coastal Access Act addresses this as it places a duty on the Secretary of State and Natural England to secure two objectives: to create a series of long-distance routes around the coast of England – a coastal path – and in association with the route, a margin of land along the length of the English coast – a coastal margin – which will be accessible for the purpose of open air recreation.

“There is a real threat that Government will delay the roll out of this scheme indefinitely. There are now fears that a Government looking for billions of pounds of cuts may find this important scheme an easy option to cut despite its long term importance.”

Dr Flitcroft said BMC members and other climbers and walkers should write to their MP and urge them to support the implementation of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.

She is also seeking volunteers to represent sections of the coast and work with the BMC to ensure users’ voices are heard. The council is putting together a coastal access volunteer guidance pack and will run workshops for volunteers around the country.

Anyone interested should contact her on 0161 438 3333 or alternatively email her at the BMC.

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