Access to England's coast must go aheadRights-of-way experts have urged the Government not to be diverted from their plans to create a coastal path round England.

Access to England's coast must go ahead

A committee of MPs last week called for a rethink on the plans, which follow the Labour party’s commitment to opening up access to England’s coast which were first mooted in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee complained landowners and occupiers of coastal properties had too little protection as the Marine Bill, which contains the proposals, currently stands.

MPs on the committee said Natural England, the government's conservation agency charged with drawing up the plans, should be given powers to award compensation to owners who say they will lose out financially.

The Institute of Public Rights of Way Management (IPROW), which represents local-government officers and others involved in managing footpaths and other rights of way, said the £5bn scheme must go ahead.

IPROW President Alan Ibbotson said: “The key now is not to let this great opportunity for coastal access be wasted. The time is right to address this glaring gap in public access.

“Our members are engaged in resolving public access issues right across the country.  We recognise the need to work with property owners, expecting very limited liabilities for them in a similar way to those involved with open access land.  

“Skilful negotiation by professionals need not imply compensation costs as packages of mutual benefits can be found by working together.”

IPROW has also been involved in trying to sort out the mess created with the abandonment of the Discovering Lost Ways scheme, which failed miserably to lead to the recording of footpaths believed to have been left off definitive maps.