A Case of 'Smoke and Mirrors': Government Has Shown No Regard For Coastal ConsultationEnvironment Secretary, Hilary Benn's announcement at the Labour Party Conference today (Thursday 27 September) that the Government plans to legislate for a statutory right of access around the English coast has paid more attention to political dogma than to the future of the individuals and businesses who will be affected – according to the CLA, the rural economy experts.
"Have Hilary Benn and his colleagues at Defra even read the responses of the 753 individuals and organisations who have taken the time to respond to Defra's Coastal Access consultation? It appears that the Secretary of State has already made up his mind which makes the consultation process a complete farce.
"No one's disputing that we need access to the coast. The question is identifying where there are problem areas and dealing with these rather than taking a broad brush approach otherwise this is like taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
"Access for all might be a Labour value but I thought that this Labour Government was all about protecting the rights of individuals such as those businesses, farmers and landowners who stand to lose income and capital value as a result of this dogma.
"We dread to think how much an approach like this will cost unless of course the Government intends to ride roughshod over these legitimate business interests and refuse to pay them compensation that they would otherwise be due. An uninterrputed path around the English coast is not an easy task. Areas that are currently inaccessible are likely to be so for a good reason.
"This is clearly a case of 'smoke and mirrors'", concluded David Fursdon.
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Sarah Slade MRICS
A chartered surveyor with responsibility for CLA policy on public rights of way and access issues. Provides advice to members on issues arising from public access to the countryside.
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More articles and documents
The CLA calls on MPs to reconsider coastal access plan while there is still time
[26 October 2009]
Coastal Access (England only)- Background and Government Response to DEFRA Consultation and Pre-legislative Scrutiny of Part 9 Draft Marine Bill
[7 October 2008]
Proposals to improve Access to the English Coast
[Consultation response archive]
[17 September 2007]
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