Opening up access to the English coast would bring economic benefits, the Ramblers said

Opening up access to the English coast would bring economic benefits, the Ramblers said

The planned path around the coast of England is in danger of being axed, according to the country’s leading walking charity.

The Ramblers said the English Coast Path could be a victim of coalition Government cuts in tomorrow’s spending review announcement by Chancellor George Osborne.

The charity said the Minister for the Natural Environment has changed his tune on the project. After opening the first section in Dorset last year to coincide with the hosting of Olympic sailing events, the Richard Benyon has changed tack, the Ramblers said.

The magazine Farmers Weekly reported Mr Benyon as saying the Government had inherited some legacies that would be extremely expensive to deliver – and any that were not of a high priority were ‘up for grabs’. “The Coastal Access Bill was a sledgehammer to miss a nut,” he said.

The Marine and Coastal Access Act was passed by the last Labour Government and created the framework for setting up a path and ‘spreading space’ around the coastline of England.

The Ramblers said: “The planned England Coast Path was a win for walkers but more importantly for our struggling coastal towns.

“The recently opened Wales Coast Path was walked by 2.8 million people last year, bringing in an additional £16m to the Welsh economy, boosting growth, creating jobs and putting Wales on the map as a major tourist destination.

“The England Coast Path has the potential to bring similar benefits to our shores for very little cost – the planned expenditure on the path for 2012-15 is just £239,000.

“In these difficult times, the project is vital for rejuvenating our coastal communities as well as improving the health and wellbeing of the nation.

“Wales and Scotland already have access to their coast and England is now lagging behind. The Ramblers are calling on Government to support the path and ensure that we can all gain from the economic, health and wellbeing benefits it will bring.”

Benedict Southworth: 'Axing coast path would be false economy'

Benedict Southworth: 'Axing coast path would be false economy'

Ramblers’ chief executive Benedict Southworth said: “Axing the path would be a false economy.

“The cost of investing in the project is tiny compared to the economic boost it can bring to our ailing seaside villages and towns.

“Now more than ever we need the path to help rejuvenate our coastal communities and to encourage people to live healthier lives.

“Mr Benyon needs to show that the Government has a continued commitment to see this exciting project through and open up the coast for all.”

The Open Spaces Society said the Government would be wrong to halt the setting up of the coast path.

The society’s general secretary Kate Ashbrook said: “Ministers will be shooting themselves in the foot if they slash the England Coast Path and its adjoining access land when they announce Government spending cuts tomorrow.”

Ms Ashbrook said Mr Benyon has ignored the immense public benefit that the new path and its access land provide, to the nation, its visitors, and its deprived coastal communities.

“For a relatively small investment, the new access brings health and happiness and income to thousands of people,” she said.

Kate Ashbrook: 'Minister missing point'. Photo: Andrew McCloy

Kate Ashbrook: 'Minister missing point'. Photo: Andrew McCloy

“The minister is quoted as saying that only a tiny percentage of people would actually use the path for long treks, but that is completely missing the point.

“People will visit our inspiring coast, for short or long walks, if they know that they can walk beside it without interruption and being forced inland.

“At present, too much of our wonderful coastline is inaccessible. The coastal path will make all the difference.

“If tomorrow’s announcement includes axing the coastal path, ministers will be making a false economy and depriving us all of something very precious.”

grough approached the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs for a statement but had not received a response at the time of publication.

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