The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is ‘relieved’ that private parks and gardens are going to be excluded from the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, but warned of a ‘veiled threat’.

The Bill, which aims to create a coastal path all around England, has attracted controversy for its perceived threat to private land. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Huw Irranca-Davies’ statement about private parks and gardens, made yesterday, has been welcomed cautiously by the CLA.

CLA president Henry Aubrey-Fletcher said: ‘We are relieved the Minister has decided to exclude private parks and gardens from the Bill. It is fair and proportionate. However, we are concerned by the Minister’s decision to conduct trials in private parks around the coastline to see whether access can be continuous.

‘Even before this Bill, 70% of the English coastline was available to walkers. The remaining 30% is not accessible for very good reasons, namely ports, harbours, military bases and areas left for environmental purposes. This showed that it is perfectly possible to create coastal routes without impinging on private parks and gardens.’

It is believed that Natural England is conducting the trials on private parks in the hope that landowners will concede; if they do not, there is the possibility of access on private land being made compulsory.

The rural economy experts’ president added: ‘Although the CLA has been against the implementation of this coastal access from the beginning, we are pleased the Government has shown it can be trusted to deliver access in a way which is fair and, if these proposed trials go ahead, takes into account the interests of locals.’

The Bill completed its progress through the House of Lords on June 8. It was introduced to the House of Commons on June 9 and had its Second Reading on June 23. It entered the Commons Committee stage on June 29, and this should be concluded on July 16.

Read more about views on the Marine Bill’s failure to protect wildlife.

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