[N]atural England has today Monday 25th July published its formal proposals to improve public access along a 62 mile of coast in Cumbria, between Gretna and Allonby.
There is now a period of eight weeks for legal interests and members of the public to make objections or representations that the Secretary of State must take into account when considering whether to approve the proposals.
If approved, this route will become part of the England Coast Path – the long distance walking route and National Trail – which is being developed around the entire English coast, which once completed, will be one of the longest coastal routes in the world.
Natural England have been working to implement the England Coast Path in Cumbria since 2011. This is the third stretch of coast we have been working on and will provide the important link between previously-opened sections of the trail to the south of Allonby, the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail and the Scottish border.
The proposed route starts from the border town of Gretna, crossing the river Eden near the historic fortress city of Carlisle, around the Anthorn peninsular and onwards through small coastal villages and the Victorian resort of Silloth, eventually linking to the already open section of England Coast Path at Allonby, where from the 18th century hot, cold and ‘vapour’ sea waters were taken in indoor baths.
Almost all the 62 mile coastline of this stretch is within the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Solway Firth Special Area of Conservation which is recognised internationally for its habitats and the species they support. The low lying landscape contains swathes of grazed salt marsh, sand dunes and intertidal habitats. These support breeding birds, wintering waders and wildfowl and fragmented populations of important protected species such as natterjack toads, all combining to make it enticing for walks and visits.
Since October 2014, Natural England and Cumbria County Council have met landowners and many other interested parties to ‘walk the course’, consider local issues and discuss where the new route could go. Today’s report sets out our proposals and includes improvements to some of the existing access that is already provided along the coast, as well as recommending many sections of new access along the coast between Gretna and Allonby. The proposals also:
identify a clear and continuous way-marked walking route along this part of the coast, bringing some sections of the existing coastal footpath closer to the sea and linking some places together for the first time;
allow the route to ‘roll back’ if the coastline erodes or slips, solving the long-standing difficulties of maintaining a continuous route along the coast; and
secure legal rights of public access for the first time to the area’s beaches.
Anyone can make representations to Natural England about the report during the eight week period that has just begun. Owners and occupiers of affected land can make objections about the report on specified grounds, which will be considered by a Planning Inspector before the Secretary of State makes a final decision.
All representations and objections must be received by Natural England no later than 5 p.m. on Monday 19th September 2016.
Copies of the report can be viewed in several locations along the coast between Gretna and Allonby (Longtown Library, Carlisle Library, RSPB Campfield Marsh visitor centre, Bowness-on-Solway, the Post Office, Kirkbride and the Discovery Centre, Silloth). The full report and all the forms and guidance on how to make a representation or objection within the next eight weeks are also available on Natural England’s website.
Natural England’s Area Manager Simon Humphries said: “This stretch of the England Coast Path from Gretna to Allonby will allow walkers to enjoy views of many of our important national and international sites for nature conservation.
“Whilst we have been developing these proposals we’ve spoken to and worked with many different people and would like to thank everyone who has helped us over the past 12 months.
“We have been careful to balance these new proposals to improve access to the coast with the sensitivities of our special wildlife and coastal habitats and the concerns of owners or managers of land on the coast. We would encourage anyone with a view on coastal access to take a look at the proposals, which are available for the next eight weeks.”
Dr Brian Irving of the Solway Coast AONB said: “The Solway Coast AONB has worked in partnership with Natural England Coastal Access Team over the last few years, and in April 2014 the England Coast Path stretch from Whitehaven to Allonby in the AONB was opened.
“We are pleased to have continued this partnership work for the Allonby to Gretna stretch. The AONB is delighted to be involved in this exciting initiative which will open up Cumbria’s coastline and boost tourism in the Solway Coast AONB and improving the access in this area.”