The decision means a coastal path will be established round the Isle of Wight. Photo: Val Pollard CC-BY-SA-2.0

The decision means a coastal path will be established round the Isle of Wight. Photo: Val Pollard CC-BY-SA-2.0

Campaigners have welcomed the coalition Government’s announcement that it will create a coast path around the Isle of Wight.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it would include the island in the England Coast Path, which Natural England is currently establishing.

But walkers will have to wait some time for the whole of the Isle of Wight’s coast to be opened up: Defra said it will continue with its programme for establishing 40 per cent of the all-England path under the Marine and Coastal Access Act before it looks at the island’s access.

The act, passed by the previous Labour government, excluded England’s islands from the provisions of setting up a coastal corridor for walkers. But it allows the Secretary of State to issue an order extending access to an island, and Defra said a statutory instrument will now be laid before Parliament.

In the most recent consultation on the Isle of Wight coast path, 98 per cent of respondents, almost 3,000 people, were in favour, with 1.4 per cent against.

The Ramblers mounted a major campaign on the issue, with more than 2,500 emails sent to Defra in support of opening up the island’s shoreline.

The decision means 113km (70 miles) of coastline will eventually be accessible to walkers.

Benedict Southworth, Ramblers chief executive, said: “We’re thrilled by the Government’s decision to include the Isle of Wight in the plan to open up the whole of the English coast.

“Creating a path around the entire Isle of Wight coast will allow all its residents and thousands of visitors to enjoy all the recreational activities the coast has to offer.

“Most importantly, people will be able to walk by the seaside, listening to the sound of the waves and enjoying the sea breeze, without having to turn inland and walk on busy and dangerous roads.

“The coast path is not just good news for walkers, but will help to breathe new life into the island’s coastal towns and villages, boosting tourism and the local economy and reconnecting people with their stretch of coast, helping to promote health and wellbeing.

“We look forward to the day that the whole coastline is opened up for the nation to enjoy.”

The Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation organisation, also welcomed the news.

Kate Ashbrook, the society’s general secretary, said: “We have waited a long time for this result but it has been worth it.

“We are delighted that we now have the promise of access around the island’s 70 miles of coast. Currently walkers are forced inland on about 25 miles which is off-putting and unpleasant for residents and visitors.

“We need to secure a truly coastal route with adjoining access land so that walking around the island is pure pleasure.

“Coastal access will undoubtedly boost the Island’s economy too. For example, the Wales Coast Path, which was opened in May 2012, has in a 12-month period, generated more than £32m for the local economy.

“We give credit to the Ramblers and its Isle of Wight area who have campaigned ceaselessly to achieve this on behalf of us all.”

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