Fears over impact of unbroken coastal path
PUBLISHED: 14:00 23 July 2011
Countryside organisations have urged owners of sporting rights to have their say on the planned coastal access trail
Rural campaigners have accused Government of “shameful” treatment of owners of countryside sporting rights as plans for an all-England coastal trail move forward.
The Countryside Alliance said people legally allowed to shoot on coastal land are being treated as second class citizens, with no rights to make formal objections to the proposals.
The comments came as Natural England prepared for what it referred to as “walking the course” where officers will visit coastal land likely to be affected in Kent.
The planned coastal access path – which will form part of an unbroken trail around the UK – will run 39km from Ramsgate Pier to Folkestone.
A spokesman at Natural England said options for improving access would be discussed with people who own and manage the land.
A public consultation is due in late 2011, with a 12-week public consultation period.
Kent is one of the first stretches of coast to become part of the new trail, with completion expected in 2014.
But while Natural England stressed the path would give people the right to roam around the coastline in places currently off-limits, others expressed opposition regarding the impact it would have on local residents, landowners and those who have sporting rights over land, which allows them to carry out activities such as shooting.
South East regional director of the Countryside Alliance, Michelle Nudds, said owners of sporting rights were treated as second class citizens and were unable to make formal objections.
“The Countryside Alliance has long fought for a change in the law,” she said.
“Owners of sporting rights cannot make formal objections and as such they have no access to the independent appeals process because the law does not classify them as having a ‘relevant interest in the land’.
“Despite this shameful situation, it is essential that Kent residents who own sporting rights in coastal areas make themselves known to Natural England and participate fully in the consultation process.”
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) issued an alert to people who shoot in coastal areas in Kent that the sport may be affected.
This could include clay pigeon shooting, airgun and rifle range shooting, pest control and game shooting.
BASC’s Dr Conor O’Gorman said: “If a person’s shooting interests are on potentially affected land they should be aware of the coastal access proposals and get involved at this early planning stage.”
The coastal path, made possible due to the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, will open up miles of coastline, and existing trails which erode into the sea will be replaced, creating an unbroken trail.
It could stretch up to four metres wide and would include a “spreading area”, where appropriate, which would run seawards and allow access to cliffs, dunes, mudflats, saltmarshes and beaches.