Opening up the Isle of Wight coast will bring economic benefits, campaigners say. Photo: Val Pollard CC-BY-SA-2.0

Opening up the Isle of Wight coast will bring economic benefits, campaigners say. Photo: Val Pollard CC-BY-SA-2.0

Access campaigners are hoping for a second chance to convince the coalition Government to include the Isle of Wight in coastal access plans.

Former environment minister Richard Benyon turned down pleas to include the island in the route of the England Coast Path, despite widespread support for the proposals.

Mr Benyon was ousted from his post in October and the Open Spaces Society is urging the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to set up coastal access on the popular isle.

An original consultation in July 2012 is being repeated and is due to end on Friday.

Kate Ashbrook, the society’s general secretary, said: “It is hard to understand why the then minister, Richard Benyon, refused to make the order when there was such an overwhelming response in favour, but we are pleased that Defra is having a rethink.

“Since then the case for including the island has become even stronger.

“For instance, we have learnt that the Wales Coast Path, which was opened in May 2012 has, in a 12-month period, generated more than £32m for the local economy. This clearly indicates that the Isle of Wight will also benefit economically because people will visit the island specifically to walk the 70 miles right round it, spending money as they go.

Kate Ashbrook: pleased Defra is having a rethink

Kate Ashbrook: pleased Defra is having a rethink

“Local people will benefit too from the new opportunities to get out and enjoy their lovely island.

“Currently the coastal walk is interrupted by dangerous, busy roads, a physical and psychological barrier which keeps people away from the sea. The coastal-access programme, which provides a path and adjoining spreading room, will make a huge difference.

“We hope the new minister, Dan Rogerson, will agree to make the order and then allow Natural England, which is implementing the access, to decide when to start work on the island.

“The important thing is for the minister to give this his blessing and make the order to bring the island into the coastal-access fold.”

The consultation can be accessed via the Defra website.

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