In 2014 the Coalition Government announced that this footpath around the English coast would be completed by 2020. Natural England (NE) has a legal duty to draw up plans for a Coastal path following discussion with interested parties and to allocate funds for construction. The NE plan to initiate this path is to triple their manpower working on the project. The coastline is divided into a number of sections to build the path and NE strategy to initiate work on several sections together without waiting for others to be completed. The hope is that any future government budget cuts will not affect sections where work has started.
In August 2015 I and other Ramblers members attended Ramblers seminars and then consultation meetings with NE staff prior to work starting on the Skegness section of the Path. We learnt about the physical guideline features for the Coastal path and were consulted by NE on our ideas for a route. The NE remit is to consult with users such as ourselves as well as landowners and County Council Rights of Way officers.
Then NE devises a route for public consultation. After including any revisions the route is sent to the (Government) Planning Inspectorate for final approval. This last stage can take up to a year.
Key points about the trail: -
1. The Coastal Path/Trail is actually new Access land. It has similar legal status as land created by the CROW Act 2000 rather than the usual Rights of Way which we are all used to. The path will extend to 2 metres on each side of its centre line. (So 4 metres wide). It will be a footpath only. However if existing bridleways or restricted byways are used for the path then they will retain those rights to ride a horse etc..
2. For the first time ever there will be a legal right to walk on beaches – land which belongs to the Crown.
3. Once created the Path will become a National Trail with the familiar acorn symbol like others already in existence e.g. Pennine Way. As such government funding will be provided for its future maintenance rather than relying totally on local government funds.
4. There will almost always be Spreading Room on the seaward side of the Trail which is ‘open access’ where the public will have the right to go. The boundary of this space will usually be determined by safety factors. On the landward side where there is a risk of path erosion by encroaching tides, eroded cliffs etc. the path may be ‘rolled back’ i.e. diverted onto sound ground. Any roll back action by NE can be done without consultation.
5. In some situations the path will need to cross ‘Excepted Land’ e.g. golf courses, camp sites, public parks/gardens. Here there will be no spreading room. There will always be problem areas such as MOD land and SSSIs. This will be particularly the case for the Humber coastal and estuary sections.
The first section of the path on our coast is a short one from Skegness pier to Mablethorpe North End Car Park 27 km long but only 9 km of this section currently has no path. The second section is from Sutton Bridge to Skegness pier, taking in Boston and Gibraltar Point is 92 km long but only a 10km piece near Wainfleet is without any path. These two sections are expected to be finished in 2018.The third section is a long and difficult one from Mablethorpe to the middle of the Humber Bridge taking in Donna Nook. This section has docks, MOD sites and several SSSI areas. Work on this section will start in 2016. The maps, above, show the start and finish points of the 2 sections.
Drop in meetings were due to be held for the first two sections in November and December 2015. Other information from :-
www.gov.uk/government/collections/england-coast-path-improving-public-access-to-the-coast, Then select either England coast path in the east of England (for Sutton Bridge section) or England Coast path in the north east of England (for Skegness northwards)