The coast at Sea Palling. Photo: Paul Buckingham CC-BY-SA-2.0

The coast at Sea Palling. Photo: Paul Buckingham CC-BY-SA-2.0

Outdoor enthusiasts are being asked for their views on the next stages of the planned England Coast Path.

A public consultation opened this week on proposals for a 41km (25-mile) route along the north Norfolk coast.

The stretch will run from Sea Palling and Weybourne and are the latest stage in the protracted process of providing public access to England’s coastline under the Marine and Coastal Access Act introduced by the last Labour Government.

Natural England, the Government’s official advisory body on the outdoors, said the path will provide improved levels of access for local residents and visitors where they can walk, rest and admire the view.

The proposed route will run through parts of the Norfolk Coast area of outstanding natural beauty and incorporate the popular coastal towns and villages of Mundesley, Cromer and Sheringham.

It passes through a variety of coastal habitats and scenery including sandy beaches at Sea Palling, rolling arable farmland and along the soft cliff tops found further west, which are important for their geological interest.

Coastal access legislation will enable the footpath to automatically move inland if the route is lost to erosion for example, which means that the new route would be secure into the future.

Natural England and Norfolk County Council have met landowners to walk the course and discuss where the new route could go. Discussions have also been held with other interested groups and stakeholders.

Draft proposals for the route are now open to everyone for formal consultation and Natural England invites comments from all interested parties including people who use the area for recreation, residents, farmers and businesses.

Natural England said feedback will help to shape the final proposals for the route and ensure that local issues are addressed.

Sarah Wilson, area manager for Natural England said: “We have had discussions with landowners and key organisations along the proposed route.

“Their input has been essential and helped shape the draft proposals, and we thank everyone for their time and input so far.

“Over the next 12 weeks we are inviting all organisations, farmers, local residents, visitors and businesses to have their say. It’s important that all responses are taken into account and we look forward to hearing people’s views.”

The public consultation period will last 12 weeks, closing at 5pm on Friday 11 January 2013.

The comments will be reviewed and Natural England will produce final proposals which will be submitted to the Secretary of State for approval. Once approval has been received and any establishment works are complete the new right of public access will come into force.

The first stretch of coastal access was approved in Weymouth earlier this year and was opened on 29 June in time for people to view the sailing events for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

2012 will also see work continue to deliver other stretches of improved coastal access in Durham, Cumbria, Kent, Somerset and Dorset.

The proposals can be seen on the Natural England website and will also be displayed in several libraries and council offices along the route.

Four drop in sessions will also be held in libraries this month, with advisers from Natural England and the county council on hand at Stalham, Sheringham, Cromer and Mundesley.

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