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The boss of Britain’s biggest walking charity today urged the public to get behind its campaign to stop the axing of work on England’s coastal path.

Tom Franklin, chief executive of the Ramblers, made the call as Wales prepared to open a further stretch of the All-Wales Coastal Path on the Gower. Cutting work on the English coastal route would, he said, cost the rural economy dear.

Mr Franklin appealed to walkers to join his ‘Coast for Most’ campaign to press the Government to fulfil its commitment to the English coastal path being set up as a result of legislation brought in by the last Government, but which faced stiff opposition from some landowners.

The Ramblers chief pointed out each mile of the South West Coast Path, an existing national trail, brings in almost £400,000, with a total boost to the regional economy of £307m from visitors to the route. Work on the English coastal path’s first section around Weymouth in Dorset has started, but progress on the next five sections, due to be started next April, has been thrown into doubt as Government cuts, due to be announced in October in a public spending review, threaten the project.

The Ramblers point out that local economies are already benefiting where sections of the All-Wales Coastal Path have been completed.

Tom Franklin said: “In these difficult financial times, the English coastal path will bring in much needed income and jobs to our beleaguered coastal economies. The South West Coast path, which is the best current example of a complete coastal path, generates £307m a year for the regional economy – that’s a benefit of over £390,000 per mile of coastline.

“Whilst axing the path might seem like an easy cut to make, the outlay is relatively small in comparison to the benefits which the path can bring. Austerity measures mean more people are holidaying at home, and access to the British seaside is a low-cost source of enjoyment for young and old alike.

“We know times are tough which is why we want to work with the Government to ensure the path can be completed. The Ramblers have an army of experienced volunteers ready and waiting to help with everything from surveying paths to putting in signposts.

“Another section of the Wales coastal path will be launched next week, putting them on track to complete the whole path by 2012. We are already seeing the path benefiting walkers and local businesses alike, bringing in both tourists and revenue to improve struggling coastal economies. It is imperative that these benefits be brought to England’s coastal economies too and Government commitment to an All-England coastal path must be continued.

“If anything, the coastal path is more vital now than ever, which is why we’re asking the public to join us in putting pressure on the Government to deliver the ‘coast for most’ for the sake of our economy, our jobs and our enjoyment.”

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