8 Cost |
64. The Government's recent record in estimating
the implementation costs of access legislation has not been encouraging.
Implementation of the CROW Act cost £69 million against an
original estimate of £28 million. Defra said the under-estimate
was mainly a result of the complicated and expensive mapping procedure
used for CROW: there were "difficulties of mapping access
land that were hard to assess until the work commenced".
Such extensive mapping will not be carried out for land designated
as coastal margin (we discuss mapping in more detail in paragraphs
65. Natural England estimates that the cost of
the coastal access provisions over ten years will be £50
million£5 million a year for 10 years.
This estimate was partly based on work by two independent consultants:
RPA Ltd, which collected data about the average maintenance and
management costs for existing national trails, and Asken Ltd,
whose work for Defra identified the benefits and costs of improving
access and on whom they would fall.
Natural England also used indicative costs for installation of
infrastructure based on existing agri-environment scheme payments
or on payments under the Access Management Grant Scheme.
About £13 million of the £50 million will be spent on
field staff and support. This includes the funding of at least
one full-time project officer, and other administrative staff,
in each of the 48 costal access authorities.
It also includes £14.7 million for establishment works to
facilitate new access and upgrades to existing access,
and about £6 million for the maintenance of the route during
the ten year implementation period, and other costs.
66. Many witnesses expressed concern that the
£50 million amount was not enough. The National Trust described
the amount as an "absolute shoestring", which was "far
Potential access authorities expressed concerns. The Local Government
Association, Norfolk County Council, West Sussex County Council,
and the Cumbria Countryside Access Partnership Board (the working
partnership between Cumbria County Council and Cumbria Local Access
Forum) all had doubts about whether £50 million was sufficient.
Devon County Council said its experience of working on coastal
paths was that they often cost far more than originally supposed.
67. Natural England and Defra were confident
that £50 million was sufficient. Natural England told us
the estimate was "robust", although a "detailed
national audit of existing coastal access arrangements" was
scheduled to finish in spring 2009 which would "provide a
further opportunity to test these cost assumptions".
The Minister said he was "very comfortable" with the
£50 million estimate, saying it had "not been plucked
out of the air" by Natural England. Presentations he had
received from officials had reassured him that £50 million
would deliver the project.
68. The development of the coastal
pathway requires sound establishment in the first instance. We
are not convinced that £50 million over ten years is the
correct sum for the job. Whilst the Bill is amended in the light
of the consultation exercise, Defra should re-evaluate Natural
England's assumption regarding the cost of developing the pathway.
Once the exercise is completed a detailed schedule of the proposal's
cost should be published.
101 "Access to the Coast: Frequently Asked Questions",
Defra website, 30 June 2008, www.defra.gov.uk. Back
Natural England, Improving coastal access: Our advice to Government,
February 2007, p viii Back
Ev 24, para 5; Natural England Board, 21 February 2007, Paper
Number NEB P07 03 ["Improving Coastal Access"], Annex
6; Defra, Consultation on Proposals to Improve Access to the
English coast, June 2007, p 46. Back
Ev 24, para 2 Back
The project officer would be based in the access authority for
3 years on average-with variation of the actual term of employment
according to the actual size and complexity of each authority's
coastline. Ev 124 [Defra]; Ev 25 [Natural England]. Back
Cost estimate of £4,945 per km for establishment of works
to facilitate new access is based on work undertaken by independent
consultants. Cost estimate of £3,185 per km for improvements
to existing access. Ev 125 [Defra]. Back
Maintenance cost estimate of £580 per km per year. Ev 125
Q 196; Ev 54, section 3. Back
Ev 142, para 6; Ev 164, para 5; Ev 177, section 3; Q 348. Back
Q 353. The cost of establishing some new coastal routes in Devon
had ranged between £5,000 and £10,000 per km-excluding
the cost of two footbridges, landowner mitigation works, and compensation
payments to landowners. Natural England's own working estimate
for the funding of establishment works to facilitate access is
£4,945 per km, which includes the establishment of steps,
bridges, drainage, signs and notices. Devon County Council acknowledged,
however, that its costs were "likely to be considerably higher
than most new routes created through the Coastal Access proposals
as we have been constrained on the choice of route by the need
to seek agreement with the landowners" (Ev 103). Back
Ev 3, para 20 Back
Qq 381, 401, 404. Back