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We have deplored the government’s decision to exclude the Isle of Wight from the coastal-access programme. Coastal access is being implemented stage-by-stage around England under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, and last year the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consulted on whether it should extend the coastal-access provisions to the Isle of Wight.
The Act excludes from coastal access any Island to which it is not possible to walk from the mainland at any time. However, there is a provision in the Act enabling the Secretary of State for Environment to make an order applying coastal access to specific islands. The Secretary of State must be satisfied ‘that the coast of the island is of sufficient length to enable the establishment of one or more long-distance routes along its length capable of affording the public an extensive journey on foot’. The Isle of Wight coastline is about 70 miles and the Secretary of State considered that this was sufficient to satisfy the condition. However, despite this, and the majority of responses in favour of access around the Island, environment minister Richard Benyon last week refused to include the Island in the access programme.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We are angry that the minister has rejected coastal access for the Isle of Wight. No English county is more closely linked to the sea—yet it is the only English coastal-county to be omitted from the scheme. The support for access around the Island’s coast was overwhelming and widespread, not only did 60 per cent of the respondents say “yes” but there were a further 2,328 emails sent in support.
‘The coalition of agreement is made up not only of walkers, but also of a wide range of businesses and county and local councillors. Everyone recognises the benefits that such access would bring to the Island’s economy. At present much of the northern coast has no access at all and there are plenty of interruptions to the path elsewhere. In addition, the new regime would give the public room to spread either side of the path, to enjoy the views or a picnic.
‘We consider it myopic of ministers to reject such a brilliant opportunity to benefit the Island’s economy. They did not even need to agree a timetable, so it could have been delayed for a few years.
‘The campaign is not over and we hope in due course to change the minister’s mind,’ Kate declared.