Allonby, at the northern end of the Cumbria section. Photo: Alexander P Kapp CC-BY-SA-2.0

Allonby, at the northern end of the Cumbria section. Photo: Alexander P Kapp CC-BY-SA-2.0

The Government’s advisory body on the outdoors has started a consultation on the next stretches of English coastline to be opened up to public access.

Natural England is seeking views on coastal access in the North-East and in Cumbria.

On the east coast of England, the proposals affect the route from the north shore of the Tees Estuary to South Bents near Whitburn, north of Sunderland.

The Cumbrian section includes the stretch from Whitehaven to Allonby, north of Maryport.

The consultations, under the Marine and Coastal Access Act, run for three months, with a closing date of 3 August.

The act, introduced by the last Labour Government, provided the legal framework for a coastal corridor around England’s shores, allowing the public to access the English coastline for the first time.

So far, only the section around Weymouth in Dorset has been established and the coalition Government has been accused of dragging its feet on the project by access campaigners.

Last weekend, the Welsh Government officially opened the world’s first path around the whole country’s coast.

Natural England said in its documents for the latest proposals for Durham, Hartlepool and Sunderland and for the Whitehaven to Allonby section: “For the first time, there would be secure statutory rights of public access to significant areas of beach, cliff and other coastal land on this stretch of coast.

“The coast path would be able to ‘roll back’ as the cliffs erode or slip, solving longstanding difficulties with maintaining a continuous route on this stretch of coast.”

At the end of the consultation, the advisory body will make its recommendations to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Natural England estimates the latest Cumbria section would cost £13,400 a year to maintain, and the north-east coast stretch is likely to cost £33,000 annually.

More details, including how to make submissions, are on the Natural England website.

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