Left out: the Ramblers fear for the future of the England Coast Path

Left out: the Ramblers fear for the future of the England Coast Path

Britain’s biggest walkers’ charity said it was concerned the England Coast Path had been left out in the cold in Chancellor’s autumn statement.

The Ramblers called George Osborne’s speech to Parliament a ‘mixed bag’ for walkers.

The campaigning charity welcomed the protection of funding for England’s national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, but the coastal path and other schemes faced uncertainty.

Ramblers director of advocacy and engagement Nicky Philpott said: “While we’re very pleased to see that funding for national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and our public forests has been protected, we do have concerns that other areas have been left out in the cold.

“Despite our best efforts, the Chancellor has still not given any assurances for the completion of the England Coast Path, which will be a vital new national asset.

“Natural England, the agency responsible for the creation of the path, faces a difficult task as they endure further stiff budget cuts. We will continue to champion the completion of this much treasured path and watch any developments closely.”

In December last year, the then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said more than £5m would be spent on completing the England Coast Path 10 years earlier than the coalition Government originally planned. He said work should be complete by 2020.

The Ramblers said: “Worryingly, other areas that would benefit from additional funding were also overlooked, including the rights of way network and parks and urban green spaces, which are maintained by local authorities.

“With direct grants from central government falling by 27 per cent between 2011 and 2015, there will be even less funding available to keep paths open in coming years.”

The Ramblers urged the Government to look at alternative sources of funding, such as the £3bn Mr Osborne pledged to ‘safeguard England’s countryside through the Common Agricultural Policy’ or the millions handed out to Local Enterprise Partnerships every year.

Ms Philpott said: “All this comes at a time when there is unprecedented pressure on the NHS budget, and while that’s been protected, local health budgets have been reduced. Physical inactivity is now a public health problem on a scale comparable to smoking, so we need to be doing everything we can to make it as easy as possible for people to get active by walking.

“Schemes such as Walking for Health, which we run in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, rely on local authority funding for over 50 per cent of its 400 health walk schemes throughout England. Without Walking for Health, inactive people, and those at risk of inactivity, are more likely suffer long-term health conditions.

“Inactivity places a significant cost on local economies, whereas walking itself makes a vital contribution.

“Only this week new figures report that walking is worth £1.8bn a year. We welcome the chance to work with the Chancellor to create a country designed for walking to help tackle the inactivity pandemic and urge that walking infrastructure is not overlooked.”

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