Fowlers may soon be sharing the foreshore with ramblers if public access proposals from Natural England (NE) come to fruition.

In the organisation?s Improving Coastal Access report, NE has suggested that a coastal corridor be created around the entirety of the undeveloped English coast, allowing more members of the public access to the foreshore. The newly formed Governmental conservation advisory body has angered landowners, who will be expected to allow access to their land, as it does not plan to offer compensation if the proposals are carried out.
Alan Jarrett, chairman of the Kent Wildfowling & Conservation Association (KWCA), told ST:

?The KWCA owns almost 2,000 acres and manages 10,000 acres of coastal land. This proposal is wrong, mainly because of the damage to SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) improved access will cause ? Natural England is supposed to be concerned about conservation and the environment. The whole thing beggars belief. The KWCA spends a great deal of money, time and effort on its land and is careful to preserve the environmental integrity of the coastal area. All our members agree that this shouldn?t be happening, but if it does then there should at least be discussions concerning compensation.?

A spokesman from BASC was also sceptical of the proposal. He told ST: ?We don?t welcome unregulated access. Safety is very much on everyone?s mind and the issue is up for consultation. In terms of wildfowling, it?s unlikely that people will go out on the marshes and interrupt the wildfowlers? sport.?

David Fursdon, president of the Country Land & Business Association (CLA), commented: ?That there will be no compensation for landowners whose property is used for public access under these proposals seems draconian. In creating any new legislation there should be a presumption of compensation paid where a loss is shown. Existing access arrangements to English coastal areas already attract 70million visitors a year, but only nine per cent of those walk for longer than an hour or more than two miles.

The CLA has asked where the public demand for these proposals is, and whether spending £50m of taxpayers? money can be justified. Providing access alone does not increase the number of visitors to rural areas or boost the rural economy. This proposal needs further work and we will be scrutinising developments very closely.?

The National Farmers? Union (NFU) claims that increased coastal access could be achieved in less time and with less controversy if the problems were to be solved locally and put together through local partnerships. NFU president Meurig Raymond said: ?We share Natural England?s aspiration of improving access to the coastline, but firmly believe this should be achieved by agreement rather than by imposition.?