Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Miliband sets out 'access all areas' plan for English Coast
Plans to open up the whole of England's coastline to the public for the first time were set out by Environment Secretary David Miliband today.
At present parts of the English coastline are out of bounds to walkers who find their routes blocked and are forced to make long detours inland.
Ministers favour a strip allowing access along the full length of the coast (see option 4 below), as well as access to headland, coves and beaches so that a continuous route will always be available as close to the coast as possible.
They want people to have their say on Natural England's recommendations, to help shape final government proposals. David Miliband said: "We are an island nation. The coast is our birthright and everyone should be able to enjoy it. I want families to have safe and secure access to walk, climb, rock scramble, paddle and play all along our coastline.
"The coast is also vitally important for nature conservation and wildlife and for tourism, so our vision for greater freedom and rights for people will take into account the need to safeguard habitats and heritage sites.
"Improving public access will enrich people's enjoyment and understanding of the varied seaside landscapes and environments around the country."
The consultation seeks views on four options:
* Use existing rights of way legislation to create a footpath all round the coast.
* Extend open access using the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to give access to types of land which are considered coastal - e.g. beach, dunes, cliffs, etc.
* Voluntary agreements with landowners using existing mechanisms such as those for agri-environment schemes.
* New legislation to allow Natural England to designate a coastal corridor providing a continuous route along which people can enjoy access to the coast.
Deadline for responses to the public consultation is 11 September 2007 (http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/coast-access/index.htm).
Natural England submitted its advice to government (http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/) in February 2007.
The report includes details of its fact finding and research work along with its assessment of three existing options that could be used to improve coastal access, ie the use of the Highways Act 1980, section 3 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and voluntary measures to create permissive access. Natural England concluded that none of these existing options would provide a solution to meet the vision set out by Government and recommended that the Government should legislate to create a new approach to access, tailored to the circumstances of the coast.
The consultation will be launched by the Environment Secretary David Miliband on the afternoon of 19 June at the National Trust's White Cliffs of Dover visitor centre.
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