The CLA has accused the government of wasting millions in taxpayers’ money to boost coastal access around the country.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg announced that the building of a 3,000-mile trail along the English coast would be completed by 2020.

Speaking at the RSPB’s Conference for Nature on Wednesday (3 September), Mr Clegg said money would be made available to complete the coastal access programme by 2020.

The scheme will allow the public to have the right of access round all the open coast, including areas, according to Natural England, where people can “rest, relax and admire the view”.

An 870-mile coastal access path has already been opened in Wales in 2012, but the English programme, announced in 2009, has been delayed amid opposition from landowners and government budget cuts.

However, it is understood that the government plans to spend an additional £30-40m to complete the English project by 2020 to speed up the programme.

“It seems extraordinary that the government has committed to spending £25m during continuing financial austerity to open up less than 8% of the English coastline.”
Henry Robinson, CLA president

The move has delighted countryside groups including the Ramblers’ Association, which has campaigned for better access to the coast for the public.

But the CLA described government plans to spend up to £5m/year to speed up access to the coast as “extraordinary in a time of austerity”.

The association, which represents the views of 33,000 landowners, said Mr Clegg had “completely missed the point on coastal access” because most of the coastline was already accessible.

CLA president Henry Robinson, who farms a 400ha cereal farm near Cirencester, Gloucestershire, said: “Mr Clegg appears to be going down the wrong path when looking at the issue of coastal access.

“While it is right that 123km of coastal access has been provided under the Marine and Coastal Access Act in England over the past five years, he fails to recognise that most of the coastline – some 3,700km – is accessible already.

“It seems extraordinary that the government has committed to spending £25m during continuing financial austerity to open up less than 8% of the English coastline.”

The CLA is concerned that opening up a coastal corridor around England will inflict serious commercial damage on rural businesses and on farming.

In addition, farmers and landowners are concerned that increasing coastal access will leave them at risk of legal action if walkers are injured on their land.