Natural England has been attacked by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which has labelled its coastal access plans in the draft Marine BIll as ‘cheap’.

The CLA says that the plans will result in farmers facing an increased risk of legal actions against them, as they would have to provide access to buildings in areas that are not designed for public use.

Access to Britain’s entire coastline is being planned by the Government at a cost of £50 million, to be spent over 10 years.

Harry Cotterell, CLA Vice President, said: ‘As the path already exists on around three-quarters of England’s coastline, the CLA questions whether the demand and benefits warrant this public investment when the existing rights of way network is starved of cash.’

Mr Cotterell says he welcomes Natural England’s plans to include landowners in the coastal access consultation, but says it is ‘wholly unreasonable’ that the proposals make no allowances for maintenance of the new rights of way.

‘As soon as private property is opened to the public, expectations of that access change completely,’ he said. ‘For instance, steps to a private beach which are safe for the owner might not be regarded as acceptable for public use. Who then would be liable in the event of an accident if the steps were not upgraded?’

Sir Martin Doughty, Chair of Natural England said: ‘My Board will be recommended to approve proposals to create clear and well-managed public access along the entire 4000 km length of England’s coast. This solution would enable us to focus our resources where they would make the maximum difference. Where existing access works well, we won’t intervene.’

Natural England’s plans have been attacked by the CLA, however, which has labelled its coastal access plans in the draft Marine BIll as ‘cheap’ and ‘wholly unreasonable’.

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