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We have again called on the environment minister to include the Isle of Wight in the coastal-access provisions of Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consulted on this in July 2012 and then, despite the overwhelming support for the order, resolved not to proceed. Now it has decided to give a second opportunity for people to state or re-state their views.
We have responded on both occasions, urging the minister to make the order to include the Island.
It is hard to understand why the then minister, Richard Benyon, refused to make the order when there was such an overwhelming response in favour, but we are pleased that Defra is having a rethink. Since then the case for including the Island has become even stronger.
For instance, we have learnt that the Wales Coast Path, which was opened in May 2012, has in a 12-month period, generated more than £32 million for the local economy—this clearly indicates that the Isle of Wight will also benefit economically because people will visit the Island specifically to walk the 70 miles right round it, spending money as they go.
Local people will benefit too from the new opportunities to get out and enjoy their lovely Island. Currently the coastal walk is interrupted by dangerous, busy roads, a physical and psychological barrier which keeps people away from the sea. The coastal-access programme, which provides a path and adjoining spreading room, will make a huge difference.
We hope the new minister, Dan Rogerson, will agree to make the order and then allow Natural England, which is implementing the access, to decide when to start work on the Island. The important thing is for the minister to give this
his blessing and make the order to bring the Island into the coastal-access fold.
The consultation is here. It closes on Friday 24 January.