England's coastal tourism gets a boost
When the Marine and Coastal Access Act was passed by parliament at the end of last year, it was the six marine-related parts of the act that seemed to grab the headlines. Campaigning bodies like the Marine Conservation Society and RSPB celebrated the government's commitment to creating marine reservation zones, better controlling fishing, and promoting inshore fisheries as opposed to sea fisheries.
But I didn't see quite so much coverage of the elements of the act that relate directly to the coastal paths of England. At the Best of Britain and Ireland Show last week, I caught up with Natural England’s Duncan Mackay, and found out more about the scale of the project.
Natural England, which advises the government on the natural environment, carried out a survey of 2700 miles of English coast last year and found that a third of the coast had no satisfactory, secure path. The Marine and Coastal Access Act has made it law that the public should have access to all of England’s coastal areas, and will see the government spend £50 million over the next ten years on creating a continuous coastal path around the whole of England.
“There are significant parts near marinas or ports – or just where there has never been a coastal footpath – where people don’t have access to the coast. We want to give them certainty of being able to complete a journey right round the coast, whether you turn left at Land’s End or right,” Duncan explains.
Recognising that England’s coasts are threatened by erosion, Natural England has determined that if the coast does erode, the path will automatically ‘roll back’.
It is also creating areas of ‘spreading room’, like beaches and dunes, which people can use to rest and picnic. And access will not be limited to walkers – the Act gives right of access to the foreshore to sea-kayakers (or anything you can carry on foot) and access to the cliffs to climbers.
Natural England will work with local councils and landowners to implement the new Act, stretch by stretch. First will be Dorset County Council, to improve coastal access at Weymouth Bay in time for the Olympic sailing events which will take place there in 2012. Stretches of coast in Kent, Somerset, Norfolk, Cumbria and East Riding of Yorkshire will be next to get the upgrade treatment.
The Act seems like great news for green travellers wanting to enjoy England’s fantastic coastline; now we just need a public transport system that can take us to the more remote areas without having to go by car...
For more on the Coastal Access Scheme, see Natural England.
Read the greentraveller blog for more tips and recommendations for days out in the UK.