Those with coastal sporting rights in England will have no status during Natural England?s consultation process on the controversial Marine and Coastal Access Bill.

Pro-shooting organisations have recently held a series of meetings with the government to clarify certain parts of the bill in a bid to safeguard the rights of wildfowlers and other shooters.

Currently, those with ?an interest in land? are allowed to appeal decisions on proposed coastal access areas.

This includes landowners, leaseholders and those in lawful occupation of the land such as farmers with grazing rights.

The government has confirmed to the Countryside Alliance that this definition does not include holders of sporting rights, however.

The Alliance?s James Legge explained: ?In practical terms, this means that wildfowling clubs that hold sporting rights over land that they do not own will not have proper statutory recognition when the coastal access routes and associated ?spreading room? are defined.?

Mr Legge added that The Crown Estate alone currently grants 59 leases covering more than 700km of foreshore.

None of those lessees, or the hundreds of other clubs and shoots that lease or own sporting rights, will have full statutory rights in the process of reclassification of the coastal land they shoot over.

They would only have the right to appeal against the imposition, or the failure to impose, any restrictions or exclusions.

?As it stands, the bill would allow Natural England to allocate a significant part of a marsh or shoot for public access without necessarily consulting the holder of sporting rights,? said Mr Legge.

Government assurances about a general right of appeal for closures and restrictions are not good enough, according to the Countryside Alliance.

?Owners of sporting rights have a valid interest in the designation and management of coastal access land,? said Mr Legge.

?The government needs to recognise this in the bill. The way to do that is to include sporting rights in the definition of ?relevant interest in affected land?.?

The Country Land & Business Association?s national access adviser, Sarah Slade, said: ?It seems absurd that a person who a landowner allows to come on to his or her land to graze a flock for what could be only a few days at a time should have the right of appeal when a person who holds a formal grant of sporting rights in perpetuity does not.?

Mrs Slade added the measures do not go far enough: ?We are pleased DEFRA has conceded on the right of appeal, but we feel that it only got halfway there in not allowing a full right of appeal to those with a legal estate or interest in the land.?

Wildfowlers are concerned the bill could affect the future of the sport in certain areas of England.

Graham Downing is secretary of the Alde & Ore Wildfowlers Association, which has a lease over Crown foreshore on the River Alde, in Suffolk.

He said: ?This is a matter of real concern. I am amazed shooters are being treated as second-class citizens. How can someone with grazing rights be given higher status than a wildfowling club with a formal long-term lease??

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