The CLA has today (14 July) expressed disappointment in the Government’s decision to make an order for the Isle of Wight under the Marine and Coastal Access Act.
The decision made by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) means that public access to the Island’s coast will now be reviewed by Natural England as part of a project to create a long distance path along England’s coastline. The CLA, which represents landowners and rural businesses, says that this is an absurd waste of taxpayers’ money.
Belinda Walters, CLA Director Isle of Wight, said: “We are very disappointed with the announcement that the Island should be included within the legislation, reversing a sensible decision from the previous public consultation exercise.
“The Isle of Wight already has very good coastal access, including a coastal path around 67 miles long which is signed and promoted as such for Island walkers and visitors. Along with the existing coastal path, it is widely acknowledged that there is a higher density of footpaths on the Isle of Wight than anywhere else in the UK.
“The long and unwarranted coastal access process will be a huge waste of taxpayers’ money and a waste of Natural England’s time and resources.”
Ms Walters continued: “It has been claimed that changing current coastal access arrangements will provide a huge economic boost for the Island, but this is simply not the case. Marginal increases to coastal access will not attract thousands of additional tourists who would not have visited the island otherwise, and for some rural businesses, changes could have a detrimental effect. The risk must also be that whilst waiting for this process to begin, visitors will be put off visiting the Island as our existing valuable coastal path will be ignored.
“The coastal access process through Natural England will take several years to complete. To add to the absurdity of the situation, it is possible that the review’s outcome will not result in changes to the current access arrangements anyway.
“The sensible option, and the approach that the CLA recommended on multiple occasions, was to work with landowners to create voluntary access agreements that would complement the existing footpath system. This would be a much cheaper process with much faster results. We urge Defra and Natural England to work closely with the CLA and with Isle of Wight landowners and land managers to streamline processes and reduce waste from this point forwards.”