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Ministers will be shooting themselves in the feet if they slash the England coast path and its adjoining access-land when they announce government spending cuts tomorrow (26 June).
The society was reacting to comments made by the environment minister, Richard Benyon, at the Royal Cornwall Show and reported in Farmers’ Weekly (14 June), that government spending cuts mean that plans to extend coastal access could be abandoned. Mr Benyon is quoted as saying that ‘the coastal access bill was a sledgehammer to miss a nut’.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘The minister has ignored the immense public benefit that the new path and its access land provide, to the nation, its visitors, and its deprived coastal communities. For a relatively small investment, the new access brings health and happiness and income to thousands of people.
‘The Wales Coast Path, which was opened in May 2012, has already shown the benefits of a path around a whole nation’s coast. That route has brought an extra £16million to the Welsh economy—walkers spend money. I know of no other investment which gives such an impressive return.
‘The minister is quoted as saying that only a tiny percentage of people would actually use the path for long treks—but that is completely missing the point. People will visit our inspiring coast, for short or long walks, if they know that they can walk beside it without interruption and being forced inland. At present, too much of our wonderful coastline is inaccessible. The coastal path will make all the difference.
‘If tomorrow’s announcement includes axing the coastal path, ministers will be making a false economy and depriving us all of something very precious,’ concludes Kate.