DORSET has been chosen as the first place in England for people to get new rights of access to the coast.
The quango Natural England has been ordered by the Government to create an unbroken long-distance walking route around the coast, with some limited possibilities for spreading out for activities like picnics.
Work is going to begin at Weymouth immediately, so that it can be completed before Olympic sailing events in 2012.
Janette Ward, South West Regional Director for Natural England, said “Of course the South West already has some of the best coastal access in Britain.
“At 630 miles the South West Coast Path is Britain’s longest and arguably most varied National Trail.
“It presents an excellent model for ‘coastal access’ and an example of what could be achieved for the country as a whole.
“However, the coast is a dynamic environment and the South West Coast Path regularly faces issues, such as landslips and erosion, that Coastal Access legislation could provide the mechanisms to deal with, enabling us in consultation with landowners, to roll the trail back or indeed to fix it on a future predicted line in the first place.”
Natural England is going to work in partnership with Dorset County Council, whose environment director Miles Butler said: “We warmly welcome this announcement. “Dorset has some of the finest coastline in the country and arguably some of the best access to it, particularly Dorset’s section of the 630-mile South West Coast Path National Trail.
“It is exciting that work to implement the route will start in Weymouth, providing joined-up coastal access in time for Dorset to host the sailing events of the 2012 Olympics.
“The Scheme will help local people and visitors enjoy even better access to our outstanding coastline, part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
“We can now begin the important task of consulting with landowners, businesses and local people to ensure their needs are addressed and that we protect as well as boost enjoyment of our unique coastline.”
The provisions of the 2009 Marine and Coastal Access Act were opposed by bodies such as the Country Landowners Association, whose members include, for example, the Welds at Lulworth.
Natural England is today publishing a Scheme to indicate how it intends to go about enforcing new rights of access, which you can read by clicking on this link.