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Concerns over roll-out of Coast Path

View profile for Edward Worthy
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The concerns of Suffolk and Essex farmers and landowners regarding the impact of the England Coast Path on their property and businesses were discussed at a CLA forum held today (26 February) at the Burness Parish Rooms in Melton, Suffolk.

The event featured a presentation from CLA National Access Adviser Sarah Slade, which examined Natural England’s plans to create a path along a number of stretches of shoreline in both counties that will allow the public to walk almost every mile of the east coast unhindered.

Other sections in the CLA’s eastern region, such as in Norfolk, have already been completed as part of a drive to ensure that by 2020 England is home to a 3000-mile coastal walking route – one of the largest in the world.

However, routes in both Suffolk and Essex, as has been the case across the country, are set to cut through privately-owned land and farms, across sea walls, and allow ‘spreading room’ so people have the right to walk off the path and access land right up to the water’s edge.

CLA East Regional Surveyor Tim Woodward said: “The event allowed farmers and landowners along the Suffolk and Essex coast to discover more about their rights and responsibilities in relation to the roll-out of the Path, and the measures that can be taken to minimise the effects.

“We support people having access to and enjoying the coast, but it’s worth remembering that at least 84 percent of the nation’s coastline is already accessible without the need for a path that is estimated to cost between £20million­ and £50million of taxpayers’ money by the time it is finished.

“The roll-out of the Path in both counties, which Natural England wants to complete by 2020, is already causing unnecessary problems and significant stress for landowners.

“They face the prospect of the Path crossing their land and allowing the possibility of large-scale public access, which could lead to issues such as reduced privacy, trespassing, crops and environmental schemes being harmed, livestock and wildlife being disturbed, and damage to sea walls. It also has value implications for estates too.

“There are also concerns over what will coastal erosion do to the Path’s route over the course of the years, and how the Path will be maintained and by whom.

“Guidance has been issued by the Government regarding the Path, but the feedback from farmers and landowners is that they have found it equivocal and want a greater level of guidance before engaging with Natural England. The number of local farmers and landowners attending this event and the multitude of issues and concerns they raised certainly bears testament to this.”

In the week before the event, Ms Slade visited a number of farmers and landowners along the Suffolk and Essex coast to examine their cases, walk possible routes, and to advise them on their rights.

Farmers and landowners who would like further information regarding the roll-out England Coast Path and how it may affect them should call the CLA East Regional Office on 01638 590429 or email east@cla.org.uk.

Gepp & Sons have possibly the most experienced and established Rural Services Legal Team in the region. If you have any legal questions relating to farming and businesses in the rural community please contact Edward Worthy on either 01245 228124 or worthye@gepp.co.uk

The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.