No compensation for farmers affected by coastal access

Farmers will not receive compensation under rules forcing them to allow walkers onto coastal land, DEFRA has announced.

The Marine Bill, currently going through parliament, will commission a 2,500 mile, £50m coastal path around the English coast.

The path, which will take 10 years to complete, will be four metres wide with ‘spreading room’.

Two independent scrutiny committees, EFRA and the Joint Parliamentary Committee, advised DEFRA to allow landowners to appeal for path detours. Private gardens, parks and commercial ports were already exempt.

But ministers decided to continue anyway, fearing a repeat of the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) act, which allowed “lengthy and expensive” appeals.

Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, Country Land and Business Association president, said the decision to block appeals was ‘absurd, unjust and unfair.’

While there had been 3000 appeals against CROW, 2000 of those were upheld, showing the complaints were mostly justified, he said.

The substantial ‘corridor’ of land included in the path would damage arable land, he added.

The path was designed for picnickers and campers, presenting a possible fire-risk from cigarettes and barbeques. Livestock farmers might fear dog worrying.

Above all, he said, farmers should not be held responsible for accidents on cracked cliffs or on craggy steps.

The NFU said it was disappointed DEFRA had ignored both the committee’s and the NFU’s calls for proper funding and protection for those most affected by the Bill.

Paul Temple, NFU deputy president, said: “I will be taking up these concerns on behalf of farmers again.

“Frankly I am amazed that ministers do not make more effort to understand the implications that a new coastal path will have on farming businesses all along the coastline.”

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