7 Parks and gardens |
54. The Government proposes that parks and gardens
be treated as excepted land, as they are under the CROW Act. This
means that there would be no power to align the trail across them
or to include them in the spreading room.
55. Natural England told the Committee that it
disagreed with Government that all parks and gardens should automatically
be treated as excepted land.
It said there were about 5,000 parks and gardens on the English
coast (as an indicative figure), some of them extensive.
There was no precision as to what constituted a garden or a park.
The term 'park' was often used to describe the whole of the land
held in hand around a country house, regardless of its land cover
and usage it might be used for arable crops rather than
just being pasture land with specimen trees. In some cases the
category could include historic parkland even without a house.
The exclusion of parks and gardens, it said, would mean that:
Natural England's capacity to make sense of the alignment
of the coastal trail in all the circumstances on a particular
section of coast would be significantly impaired. This could mean
that the public benefits of the project would be substantially
reduced, and that some of the most long-standing and well-documented
obstructions to access along the coast itself would remain unresolved.
56. In oral evidence Natural England explained
the effect of treating parks and gardens as
exempted land is effectively that it ties one hand behind Natural
England's back, because whatever the commonsense approach might
be, it will not be able to engage with anything that falls within
one of those descriptions. [
] It takes away the very flexibility
that the legislation is intended to create for Natural England.
57. Although it is not proposing parks or gardens
should become open access land, Natural England believes "there
is a good case to be made for a power to align a 'way through'
such areas in cases where Natural England considers this is necessary
and meets the other criteria set out in the draft Bill",
by creating a 4-metre wide trail but not spreading roomsimilar
to the Government's proposals for cropped land and golf courses.
Natural England's final Coastal Access Scheme would then need
to "set out in some considerable detail the approach Natural
England will take if it did engage with a park or garden".
58. The day after the evidence session with Natural
England, the CLA issued a very critical press release saying it
was "astonishing" that "up to 5,000 gardens and
parks could be hit".
The President of the CLA told us that:
Originally, as I understood it, Natural England were
happy to except parks and gardens, and when they gave you evidence
they came up with a different view. I assume they have changed
their minds because they have identified areas where they think
it would be quite difficult to get a corridor through because
there is a business or private property or whatever in the way.
Again, that is where you need to look very closely at each particular
area on the coast to see if you can find another way through without
charging through the back of somebody's garden, reducing the value
of that property or whatever. It seems to me very Draconian to
do it that way.
59. The Ramblers' Association, however, told
the Committee it supported Natural England's proposed change:
We feel that parks and gardens should not be excepted
land. The trail should be able to go through them where that is
the most sensible solution, given all the circumstances, and that
certainly does not mean invading anybody's privacy, but it is
just that, if you had to avoid every park and garden, it could
mean the route had to go inland a long way, it might have to go
closer to somebody else's property and it just would not be the
most sensible solution.
60. Devon County Council told us it was experiencing
particular difficulties filling two "gaps" of the South
West Coast Path which fell under the category of "garden".
It suggested to us that the criteria for defining parks and gardens
be developed to take account of factors such as:
- visibility and distance from
- use of the land at the date of publication of
the draft Bill as either formal gardens i.e. lawns, flower beds,
herbaceous borders, or for the growing of vegetables
- effective screening of path by timber fencing
or hedgingexpensive options such as masonry walls and earth
banks may need to be excluded.
It also believed that land recorded on the Rural
Land Register should not be regarded as garden.
61. The Minister reiterated to us Defra's policy
that parks and gardens would remain excepted land:
I foresee a great deal of conflict, I foresee a great
deal of uncertainty, and I think it would take up a great deal
of the time and effort of Natural England if parks and gardens
were not excepted. That is my judgement. I understand that there
will be others who say that we should have ploughed on and not
made parks and gardens an exception.
When I went to the south west, I saw a number of
examples of gardens of different sizes that would make it very
difficult to make a judgment call as to where you would have the
definition. When it is a fine judgment call, there will be winners
and losers. That is an equation for more tension, hostility and
all of that weighed heavily on my mind in coming up with the decision
that I have taken.
62. He added that it was also possible for landowners
to dedicate routes through parks and gardens as permissive rights
of way, and that he hoped that that would be done more in the
63. Natural England's concerns about the exception
of parks and gardens from the scheme are understandable from its
own point of view. Sometimes the exception will mean that the
trail will have to skirt property and move away from the coast.
But any alternative to the Government's policy would not be publicly
acceptable and would be a recipe for worry, confusion and conflict.
Although Natural England assures us that it would not put a trail
through ordinary back gardens,
not excepting parks and gardens as a category would expose many
people to the fear that their own privacy would be affected by
a trail passing through their garden. We
agree with the Government that parks and gardens should be excepted
land under the coastal access proposals. Nevertheless, Natural
England may attempt to negotiate voluntary access agreements with
landowners of parks and gardens if this produces the most appropriate
85 Defra, Coastal access: proposed order under section
3A of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, para 6 Back
Ev 3, para 26 Back
Ev 22 Back
Ev 4, para 28 Back
Qq 13, 24 Back
Ev 4, para 29 Back
Q 37 Back
"CLA attacks Natural England plan to traipse over private
gardens in coastal access shock", CLA press release, 5 June
Q 115 Back
Q 227 Back
Q 317 Back
Ev 103 Back
Q 441 Back
Q 444 Back
Qq 442, 445-6 Back
Qq 23, 29 Back