The Government rejected a coastal path on the Isle of Wight. Photo: Val Pollard CC-BY-SA-2.0

The Government rejected a coastal path on the Isle of Wight. Photo: Val Pollard CC-BY-SA-2.0

Access campaigners have condemned the coalition Government’s ‘myopic’ decision not to extend coastal access to the Isle of Wight.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs turned down pleas to include the island in the programme to introduce a coastal route for walkers round England.

The Open Spaces Society said the rejection was short-sighted and meant the island would miss out on the economic benefits a coastal path would have brought.

Defra’s thumbs-down to the plan follows a public consultation.

The society’s general secretary Kate Ashbrook said: “We are angry that the minister has rejected coastal access for the Isle of Wight.

“No English county is more closely linked to the sea, yet it is the only English coastal county to be omitted from the scheme.

“The support for access around the island’s coast was overwhelming and widespread, not only did 60 per cent of the respondents say yes but there were a further 2,328 emails sent in support.

“The coalition of agreement is made up not only of walkers, but also of a wide range of businesses and county and local councillors.

“Everyone recognises the benefits that such access would bring to the Island’s economy.”

Kate Ashbrook: 'campaign not over'. Photo: Andrew McCloy

Kate Ashbrook: 'campaign not over'. Photo: Andrew McCloy

The OSS said coastal access is being implemented stage-by-stage around England under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

It said that, though the act excludes coastal access on any island to which it is not possible to walk from the mainland at any time, there is a provision to enable the Secretary of State for Environment to make an order applying coastal access to specific islands.

He or she must be satisfied ‘that the coast of the island is of sufficient length to enable the establishment of one or more long-distance routes along its length capable of affording the public an extensive journey on foot’.

The Isle of Wight coastline is about 70 miles and the Secretary of State considered that this was sufficient to satisfy the condition, the OSS said.

However environment minister Richard Benyon refused to include the island in the access programme.

Defra said: “The Government has decided that it will not make an order for the Isle of Wight as it is not a priority for the coastal access programme.

“It considers that the Isle of Wight Ramblers should work with local landowners and the local authority to see what can be achieved by voluntary agreements.”

Ms Ashbrook said: “At present much of the northern coast has no access at all and there are plenty of interruptions to the path elsewhere.

“In addition, the new regime would give the public room to spread either side of the path, to enjoy the views or a picnic.

“We consider it myopic of ministers to reject such a brilliant opportunity to benefit the island’s economy.

“They did not even need to agree a timetable, so it could have been delayed for a few years.

“The campaign is not over and we hope in due course to change the minister’s mind.”

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