CLA criticises Dorset coastal access plans

THE Country land and Business Association (CLA) has criticised Government plans to boost coastal access in Dorset.

The association said the proposed coastal path at Weymouth Bay was encroaching too far inland and was ‘unnecessary’ because adequate access is already provided by the South West Coast Path.

Defra Minister Richard Benyon approved the 32 km stretch of the Dorset coast between Rufus Castle in Portland and Lulworth Cove on Thursday.

It will become the first section of the new England Coast Path and wil be opened for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic sailing, which takes place in the bay.

Defra said most of the route, which was recommended in a report by Natural England, includes the existing South West Coastal Path but therew are some new sections, closer to the sea.

It will provide a continuous long-distance walking path and a margin of accessible land along it that will give walkers new rights of access around the bay, Defra said.  

“Opening up miles of English Coastline like this will allow thousands of people to better enjoy this spectacular coastline and help support local economies by encouraging tourism,” Mr Benyon said:

Natural England chairman Poul Christensen said the first stretch of the England Coast Path would ‘provide a legacy for everyone to enjoy new areas of Dorset’s stunning coastline’.

But CLA President Harry Cotterell said: “The well-used South West Coast Path already covers many miles of rights of way, so to waste a lot of time and money trying to duplicate that access is completely unnecessary.”

Mr Cotterell said he was pleased Natural England’s the report acknowledged the concerns of some of the landowners affected by the route, but added there were still others who felt let down by the process. 

The biggest concern, he said, was the extent to which the coastal margin stretches inland. He called on the Government to ‘stand by the assurances it gave in Parliament’ that the margin would only affect ‘coastal land’.

This isdefined as the ‘foreshore and land adjacent to the foreshore including any cliff, bank, barrier, dune, beach or flat which is adjacent to the foreshore’. 

Natural England has started work on implementing coastal access in a further five areas, as part of the England Coast Path.

Cumbria – Whitehaven to Allonby

Hartlepool/Durham/Sunderland – North Bents (Whitburn Bay) to Seaton Carew

Norfolk –  Weybourne to Sea Palling

Kent – Ramsgate to Folkestone

Somerset –  Minehead to Brean Down near Weston Super Mare.

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