Time for action: MP Barry Gardiner on watch duty at Portishead

Time for action: MP Barry Gardiner on watch duty at Portishead

Two outdoor bodies have urged the coalition Government to pull its socks up and get on with the establishment of the coastal path round England.

Both the Ramblers and British Mountaineering Council said they feared the project had stalled.

The Ramblers drafted in a shadow minster to ‘queue up’ with members to use the long awaited England Coast Path coast.

And the BMC said if the Government was serious about supporting the Britain on Foot campaign, it should commit cash to setting up the route.

The two organisations have a 189,000 combined membership.

The Ramblers said they feared the promise to give people access to their nation’s coastline and create a continuous path around our shore might be kicked into the long grass at a time when coastal communities need it the most.

“The path around England was supposed to be completed by 2019, but only one stretch has opened so far,” the walkers’ charity said. “The Government has already pushed the date for completion of the path back and now further delays are feared.

“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 urging the Government to end the wait and ensure that we can all gain from the economic, health and wellbeing benefits of an England Coast Path.

Chief executive Benedict Southworth said: “This is a low-cost, green infrastructure project that will boost the wealth of coastal communities, spur people onto get healthy and best of all make more of the coast available for families to walk, explore and enjoy.”

Labour MP Barry Gardiner joined Ramblers at Portishead in Somerset at the weekend.

The shadow minister for the natural environment said: “Our coast is one of the treasures of the British countryside; but it is also an economic treasure that can bring jobs and prosperity.

“The Coastal Path in Wales brought an additional £16m into rural communities last year so it is frustrating to see the Government holding back the coastal path in England.

“We need to see that same boost to England’s coastal towns and villages.”

The BMC said the Government should back the Britain on Foot campaign by ensuring the coast path goes ahead

The BMC said the Government should back the Britain on Foot campaign by ensuring the coast path goes ahead

The BMC, which represents hillwalkers, climbers and mountaineers in England and Wales, said the passing of the Marine and Coastal Access Act in 2009 was a historic event which provided both a right to walk along the full 4,345km (2,700 miles) of England’s coastline and a permanent right of access to a coastal margin around the coast, including beaches and access to sea cliffs.

It said the implementation of the act has looked uncertain recently, with the environment minister Richard Benyon telling Farmers’ Weekly that the ‘Government had inherited some legacies that would be extremely expensive to deliver’ and describing coastal access as a ‘sledgehammer to miss a nut’.

The council said the government has since given the go-ahead on 18 July for new sections of the path to open early next year in County Durham and Cumbria, but announced the Isle of Wight would not be included in the scheme.

Dr Cath Flitcroft, BMC access and conservation officer said: “If the Government is serious about supporting the Britain on Foot campaign to get more people active outdoors then it has a fantastic opportunity to help people get active along our rich coastline by giving full commitment to the roll-out of the coastal-access programme.

“There’s such a great legacy of coast paths and coastal climbing in England, yet implementation of the coastal path and margin is lagging behind.

“At the moment the completion date is at risk of being washed away with the tide.

“The benefits of this relatively low-cost project are clear: it will boost the rural economy at the same time as bringing recreational opportunities and associated health benefits.

“We’re urging MPs to keep pressure on Government to fully support the roll-out of the England Coast Path.

“We’re asking the Government to confirm its financial commitment and set a clear completion date for the path and coastal margin.”

The BMC added that, according to Natural England’s coastal audit in 2008-9, only two-thirds the English coast has legally secure satisfactory paths and this is regularly interrupted by sections without public access.

It also estimated that 17 per cent of the coast is rapidly eroding and so some public footpaths will be lost within 20 years.

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