12 'Higher rights'|
92. The draft Bill proposes coastal access rights
on foot only. It does not include provisions relating to so-called
'higher rights' such as horse riding or cycling. Natural England's
view is that:
it would be impracticable and unreasonable for horse
riding and cycling rights to apply along the length of the coast.
We will be seeking local opportunities to improve such rights,
with the agreement of the occupier, as part of the coastal access
project. We intend to publish separate, non-statutory criteria
to guide this work. We also intend to consider with Defra how
existing higher rights around the coast can best be protected
in the face of erosion.
93. Some local authorities believed that the
Bill should be more explicit in supporting 'higher rights' on
the coast. Devon County Council "supports the principle of
providing for multi-use access on the English coastal route (including
horse riding and cycling) where appropriate". It said that
it already has some experience in this area: for example, the
Council has established multi-use on the Tarka Trail in North
Devon and has recently opened a new stage of the Exe Estuary Cycle
Trail, which is set to be "an outstanding coastal route in
South Devon". It believed provision for higher rights "should
be included in the Draft Marine Bill as a power rather than a
Cumbria Countryside Access Partnership Board also believed that
"higher rights for other users such as cyclists or horse
riders should be expressly provided for (as options) in the Draft
Bill, so that they can be used where appropriate and desirable
to improve access along the coast". It believed this "provides
a stronger framework than merely seeking "local opportunities
to improve these rights as part of the coastal access project".
94. The British Horse Society (BHS) and the cyclists'
organisation CTC naturally wanted the Marine Bill to lead to an
increase in the area of the coast open to horse riding and cycling.
The BHS said that only 7% of coastal rights of way were available
for horse riding, as opposed to the 22% of national rights of
way. It wanted the Bill to contain "a general presumption
that access will be provided for all non-motorised users unless
it can be shown that local circumstances militate against this".
CTC asked as a minimum requirement for there to be "a duty
to consider access by cyclists and equestrians between suitable
access points (roads or tracks) unless constrained by overriding
safety, environmental or land management issues".
The Central Council of Physical Recreation wanted coastal access
to "appeal to the widest range of people, for example young
people, many of whom do not find walking appealing or exciting.
This is indicated by the increasing ages of walkers".
95. Some witnesses opposed such extension of
higher rights because it went beyond the original aims to provide
access on foot, or on the grounds of cost, impact on wildlife
and the environment, the unsuitability of the terrain on the coast
or their belief that horses and bicycles would be a disturbance
96. Defra say that "[T]he coast is a complex
environment and a blanket right of access for horseriders and
cyclists would not be appropriate", although it notes Natural
England will seek local opportunities to improve such rights where
England told us part of its £50 million estimate for the
proposals included provision for a fund to contribute to locally-based
initiatives to deliver "wider access improvements".
97. Defra and Natural England's
approach to 'higher rights' is a sensible one. The focus of the
proposal is for access on foot. It would not be practical or affordable
to make the whole of the coastal path usable by horses and bicycles.
But we agree that where local geography and environmental circumstances
allow, the opportunity should be taken to improve access for such
users. We do not believe that such an approach needs to be specified
as a duty in the legislation. If access for other users is granted
it should not be implemented until decisions on future maintenance
of the pathway are agreed with the access authority.
98. While there are occasional difficulties when
walkers, horse riders and cyclists share the same route, any problems
from the illegal use of motor vehicles would be much more serious.
Motor vehicles would cause disturbance, danger and annoyance,
and would ruin the purposes of the coastal access proposals. Natural
England and access authorities must ensure as far as possible
that four wheeled vehicles, including quad bikes, are physically
denied access to the coastal route or spreading room.
137 Ev 5, para 40 Back
Ev 91-92, Executive summary. Back
Ev 91, para 6 Back
Ev 147, paras 6, 7, 11. Back
Ev 210, executive summary, section 9. Back
Ev 195, para 8 Back
Such as Michael-Sagar-Fenton (Ev 132), Jean Perraton (Ev 158),
the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Ev 171), Pentewan
Sands Ltd (Ev 175), and the Campaign to Protect Rural England
(Ev 216). Back
"Access to the Coast: Frequently Asked Questions", Defra
website, 30 June 2008, www.defra.gov.uk; Natural England,
Coastal access: Natural England's Outline Scheme, April
2008, p 2. Back
Ev 24 (DMB 56d) Back