Reclusive stars are getting steamed up about impending legislation to open up access to Britain’s beaches.

Cliffs at Tynemouth

The English coastline may soon be opened up for the right to roam 

Kate Bush may have sung: “Out on the wiley [sic], windy moors we’d roll and fall in green”, but she’s probably mightily dischuffed at plans to let hoi polloi roll and fall through her 17-acre, £2.5m Devon coastline retreat.

The Independent reports Kate as being among a plethora of celebrity owners of beach and coastline property up in arms at plans to introduce a right to roam similar to that enjoyed under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act on mountain and moorland in England and Wales.

A campaign by the Country Land and Business Association (CLBA) to pre-empt and dilute the proposed law is said to include as backers DJ Norman Cook, AKA Fatboy Slim and his missus Zoe Ball; Jonathan Ross, the impoverished TV talk-show host and general wag about town; Jamie Redknapp who apparently kicks a football around for a living, and even musical art-school bad boy Damon Albarn who lives in a house, a very big house in the country – at least at weekends.

They’re pitted against the Ramblers’ Association (RA) and the Government’s Countryside Agency, which are intent on improving public access to England and Wales’ 4,412km (2,741 miles) of coastline. A recent poll by the RA showed 87% of people erroneously thought they had the legal right to walk on beaches in England and Wales and 94% said they should have that right.

Half the foreshore is owned by the Crown, with rights of navigation only while the tide’s in, so paddling and swimming are OK, but when the tide goes out, so do your rights. Which means most folk taking a stroll along the strand are technically trespassing.

Routes such as the Alfred Wainwright-inspired Coast-to-Coast Walk start and end with a dip of the toes in the briny spume (the hint’s in the name, really!) so grough thinks it’s worth fighting for.

Much of the coastline is privately owned and worth lots of dosh, especially if its owners can keep the riff-raff away, and there’s the rub. Allowing access would bring down the values of some coastal properties by as much as £250,000, say their owners – hence the battle.

The RA says the CRoW Act allowed for the extension of access rights to the coast and it wants this introduced. As part of its campaign, it’s asking people to write to their MPs, report problems and take part in a coastal survey. For details, see the RA website.

As you would expect, things in Scotland are much better. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 introduced the right to pass over (ie walk, run, row or sail on) coastal land. Sweden, Denmark, France and Portugal also have the right to use beaches.

David Fursden, president of the CLBA, says the right to roam on our beaches is unnecessary. The RA counters that they said exactly the same about the CRoW.

Expect lots of posturing from both sides as the drawbridges are raised on the sandcastles of England and Wales.