The Government’s decision to push ahead with a costly coastal access scheme has been condemned as an indefensible waste of money by the CLA, the rural economy people.
CLA South West Director John Mortimer says it is incomprehensible that Natural England is busy slashing funding which provides voluntary access arrangements and school visits to farms under stewardship schemes on the one hand while on the other pressing ahead with a project which will bring virtually no public benefit and cost millions of pounds to implement.
“At a time when we are seeing expenditure chopped from many important services it just defies belief that Natural England is being allowed to invest so much money in coastal access when it simply cannot be justified on the basis of need.”
Natural England is planning to boost access beside Weymouth Bay in time for the 2012 Olympics and to follow that with five other 20-mile stretches around the coast – including one between Minehead and Stert Point in Somerset and others along the south coast. CLA advisors met recently with landowners affected by the Weymouth Bay proposals to hear their concerns.
The Weymouth Bay proposals are out for consultation until January 10 but CLA Regional Surveyor, Charlotte Sealy, said that more than a dozen local landowners had attended a recent CLA meeting – and all of them shared serious and genuine concerns about the way in which Natural England planned to implement coastal access.
Weymouth Bay, she said, was already well served by the South West Coast Path and by many permissive and voluntary agreements as well as statutory right of way. At one point there are three separate routes through a single field – a statutory footpath, the South West Coastal Path and now the new route.
“This duplication of access comes at immense cost to the public purse. Despite its promises to do so, Natural England has neither listened – nor intends to listen – to the concerns of private individuals about the impact of this legislation on their lives, business and property. It calls the whole of the Government’s priority and decision-making process seriously into question. If the Government felt it necessary to spend money on access, then it should concentrate on ensuring that the access we already have is properly signed, maintained and kept up to scratch,” said Mr Mortimer.
For Further Information Contact:
Paul Millard CLA SW Communications Manager on 01380 830179 or 07831 674345
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