Landowners slam coastal access bill

Landowners have slammed the government for wasting public money and ignoring fundamental property rights in its proposals for public coastal access.

Although the government dropped seven of potentially 18 bills tabled for Parliament, to concentrate on rescuing the economy, it has retained its plans for countrywide coastal access. This would see about 1620ha (4000 acres) of coastal land designated as a public right of way.

“The estimated cost of this project to the public purse is £50m we believe it will be more,” said John Mortimer, South West director of the Country Land and Business Association. “At a time when there appears to be too little money to support important public services such as defence, health and education, we believe this to be a gross waste of public money.”

The coastal access provisions form part of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, which will get its second reading in the House of Lords on 15 December, and if passed could become law by Easter.

It proposes a 4m-wide coastal route but it adds a clause saying that spreading room must be provided. That term is yet to be defined but is being interpreted as meaning spreading room from the path down to the sea and then inland to the nearest physical boundary. The bill is more definite about the fact that compensation for losses to businesses or property values will not be paid for spreading room nor will there be any right to appeal.

Although generally supportive of the Marine Bill, Mr Mortimer said the coastal access proposals undermined private businesses and property rights. “Nowhere in English law can you take a right over someone else’s property without compensation – this is nationalisation of land use.

“This is an issue which will affect everybody who owns or manages coastal land, property or businesses,” he added. “The proposals fly in the face of recommendations from two parliamentary select committees and we shall be encouraging MPs to pursue those recommendations to secure a right of appeal and a right of compensation on behalf of all property owners.”

The CLA is organising a series of meetings in the South West of England to explain the proposals For more information call 01249 700 200.

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