Housing and sustainability minister Jane Davidson has alarmed farmers and landowners by warning that she is considering introducing a statutory right to coastal access in Wales.
Speaking at the Royal Welsh Show on Tuesday (24 July), Ms Davidson announced that her two priorities were climate change and access.
She told an audience gathered on the Countryside Council for Wales’ stand that an ‘All Wales’ coastal path was an exciting development in terms of tourism potential.
“We will have a coastal path around Wales and we’re determined it will rival what is in south west England,” she said.
She highlighted a £1.5m grant programme designed to improve access to the coast and promised that funding would continue.
But she added: “We are exploring the feasibility of securing a statutory right to the coast.”
Sarah Andrews, access advisor for the Country Land and Business Association, said that the organisation was worried by the minister’s comment.
“Statutory access isn’t the best way to deliver an all-Wales route around the coast,” she said. “The best way is to continue with the current programme of grants where local authorities work with individuals to find solutions.
“The assembly only announced its improvement programme last year – why not give it a chance? It seems wrong to decide now that it is going to fail and a statutory right is needed.
“It will also been seen by farmers and landowners as a stick rather than carrot approach.”
Ms Andrews pointed out that the public already had access to more than 80% of the Welsh coastline.
“Do we really want to spend millions of pounds on achieving an all Wales route than in reality will only be used by a few?” she said.