Natural England
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Public consultation opens on improved coastal access for Durham, Hartlepool and Sunderland

Proposals for an improved coastal access route between South Bents in Sunderland and Seaton Carew in Hartlepool have been published for consultation yesterday, marking the first stages of the England Coast Path in the north east of England set in motion by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

Natural England has set out proposals for an enhanced walking route to be created along the 55 kilometres of coast to provide greater access for local residents and visitors where they can rest, relax and admire the view. 

Much of the current footpath along the coast has been affected by erosion. Coastal Access legislation will enable the footpath to automatically move inland or ‘roll back’ on around half of the length of the stretch, which means that the new route would be secure into the future. 

Natural England, Durham County Council, Hartlepool Borough Council and Sunderland City Council have in the last few months met landowners to ‘walk the course’ and discuss where the new route could go.  Draft proposals for the route are now open for public consultation and Natural England invites comments from all interested parties including land owners, farmers, residents, organisations, businesses and people who use the area for recreation.

Copies of the plans and comment forms are now available and will be displayed in libraries and tourist information centres along the stretch.    

Adrian Vass, Natural England’s Area Manager said; “We have had detailed discussions with landowners and key organisations; this has been essential and we thank them for their time.  For the next  twelve weeks we are inviting farmers, local residents, visitors and businesses to have their say on how we secure this landmark route. It’s important that all responses are taken into account and we look forward to hearing people’s views.”    

Niall Benson, Heritage Coast officer who works on behalf of the three local councils covering the stretch said; “This is an exciting opportunity to improve access to the North East Coast. It will help to safeguard public access in the future and provide a continuous stretch for people to walk and enjoy.  The consultation is about people being able to have their say on the draft proposals to make sure Natural England and ourselves get things right.  We encourage anyone with an interest in coastal access to take a look at the plans, talk to us if there are questions or concerns and send in views.”   

The public consultation period will last 12 weeks, closing 5pm on 3 August 2012. The proposals will then be finalised and submitted to the Secretary of State for approval.

The first stretch of coastal access was approved in Weymouth earlier this year, which will be open in time for people to view the sailing events for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 2012 will see work continue  to deliver four other  stretches of improved coastal access in Cumbria, Kent, Norfolk and Somerset.

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