Page last updated at 04:14 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 05:14 UK

MPs call for coastal path rethink

Seven Sisters cliffs
The plan is to encourage people to visit the nation's coastal areas

The government has been urged to rethink its plan for a long-distance path around England's coast.

Currently, it is one of the main proposals in the Marine Bill, which is going through parliament.

But MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee say it includes few formal safeguards to protect affected landowners and occupiers.

A Defra spokesman said that it would "carefully" consider the views expressed by the committee.

The draft Marine Bill includes proposals to add around 1,400 miles of new or improved coastal paths around the country.

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

But the MPs said safeguards should be put in place to help coastal landowners, businesses and farmers before legislation went ahead.

We have real concerns about how the coastal pathways will be funded, especially in terms of ongoing maintenance and the lack of appeal process open to our members
Paul Temple
NFU

And they added that the current lack of an independent appeals process for landowners who object to the route was a "fundamental weakness" of the draft Bill.

They called for Natural England - the government's conservation agency drawing up the plans - to be given power to award compensation to owners who demonstrate they will lose out financially from the scheme.

The committee's chairman Michael Jack said: "The government must look again at the question of appeals and compensation if this Bill is to command widespread landowners' confidence.

"Long-term success of the coastal pathway will not be realised unless the government also reviews the resources available for the measure, especially when it comes to the question of who will pay for the maintenance of the pathway."

The National Farmers' Union welcomed the MPs' recommendations.

Its vice-president Paul Temple said: "We have real concerns about how the coastal pathways will be funded, especially in terms of ongoing maintenance and the lack of appeal process open to our members.

"This report calls for 'concrete safeguards' to ensure everyone's concerns are addressed, which I welcome to ensure the creation of open access while safeguarding the livelihoods of our farmers and growers who live and work along this proposed route."




SEE ALSO
Frustration at Marine Bill delays
15 Nov 06 |  UK Politics
Marine Bill
12 Nov 06 |  The Westminster Hour
More marine conservation needed
17 Oct 04 |  Cornwall

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