Page last updated at 05:31 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Vote due on coastal access laws

Marine Conservation Society's reaction

Laws allowing the creation of nature reserves at sea and coastal access paths are expected to be passed later.

The House of Lords is due to vote on a bill permitting marine conservation zones to be developed around England and Wales.

Pressure groups want greater protection for rare sea life and more public rights of way to coastal areas.

Landowners are worried they may have to pay to maintain the footpaths, while fishermen fear for their livelihoods.

They are concerned about the quality of consultation and want provisions to support the industry and allow continuation of fishing to at least be considered in protected zones.

The government says the Marine and Coastal Access Bill will create the first piece of legislation of its kind in the world.

It includes proposals for environmental advisory body Natural England to add about 1,400 miles of new or improved coastal paths around the country at a cost of £50m.

The aim is to give people access on foot to land all around the English coast, including "spreading room" near the route for outdoor recreation.

However, MPs on the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee have said greater formal safeguards are needed to protect affected landowners and occupiers.

Meanwhile, it will be two years before any decision is made on where marine conservation zones will be created. Campaigners fear this could result in minimal protection for coastal waters.

Similar laws are being prepared separately by the Scottish Parliament.

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