The new Marine Bill, announced in today's Queen's Speech, takes the wrong route to increasing access to coastal areas by proposing 'access corridors' rather than footpaths, according to the Countryside Alliance.
Proposals in the Bill give Natural England the powers to create 10 metre wide 'access corridors' around the English coastline. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee has raised concerns about the lack of any compensation for landowners, the absence of any appeals process and the assessment of the potential costs of the scheme.
Simon Hart, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: "Whilst we support improved access to coastal areas we believe that this is the wrong route to delivering it. The current Bill would give Natural England huge powers to create a 'coastal access corridor' with 'spreading room', without any of the normal checks and balances.
"Under these proposals a Government agency would be given the authority to determine land use over thousands of acres which has huge conservation importance without any recourse by farmers and land managers to compensation or appeal.
"We are concerned that current estimates of the cost of delivering the scheme are far too low, and that the long term costs of maintaining the access infrastructure will fall on land owners and local communities.
"There is no evidence of public demand for the breadth of these proposals. The one question that neither the Government, nor Natural England, will answer is: what is wrong with a footpath?"
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