New East Yorkshire coastal path

PUBLISHED: 08:57 15 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:43 28 February 2013

Wartime defences crumble into ruin at Kilnsea Beach

Wartime defences crumble into ruin at Kilnsea Beach

Walkers on Holderness coast will be among the first to enjoy new national footpath

The East Yorkshire Coast, running south from Bridlington to Spurn Point and round to the Humber Bridge, is among the most forbidden in Britain, with almost half its length denied to the public. Now all that is about to change as this 100km stretch of shoreline becomes a test bed for new walkers rights just approved by Parliament.

The Marine and Coastal Access Act sets out to create a footpath right round the English coastline, keeping as close to the sea as possible. It is expected to take up to 10 years and cost 50m to create the route, which will enjoy the same status as national trails like the Pennine Way. East Yorkshire is one of five pilot areas which will be used to test the new rights and its path could be in place within four years.

Natural England, which has the job of creating the new path, has been ordered to make the Olympic Way in Dorset, where the 2012 Games yachting events will be staged, its top priority but then will come East Yorkshire, Cumbria, Somerset, Kent and Norfolk.

Andrew Best, one of the team involved, said: Holderness has one of the lowest proportions of access anywhere on the coast with about 50 per cent having no legal access at all. This is partly because there are a lot of caravan sites along the coast but also because it is being eroded very rapidly so rights of way have simply fallen into the sea and been lost.

Crucially the new path would have a roll back provision meaning that as land was washed away the right of way would automatically move inland with the coastline. There would also be a general presumption that land between the path and the sea, with some exceptions, would be open access, he said.

The first step would be to walk the coastline with individual landowners to try to agree a suitable route.

Wherever possible that would be overlooking the sea or certainly within sight of it, he said, but there would inevitably be areas, including homes and certain businesses where that would not be possible.

We wont be able to please everyone, either walkers or landowners, all the time and there will be places where problems of privacy or business operations mean that the path is not right on the coast but that is the general aim,

The route has been welcomed by the main walkers group, the Ramblers. Peter Leese, chairman of its East Yorkshire Group, said: Walking this bit of coast has always been problematic because there is such a discontinuity in the rights of way. Between Bridlington and Spurn there are about 15 miles with no proper right of access at all. That means a lot of people are put off walking the coast because you keep getting diverted onto a quite busy road which is pretty unpleasant.

I understand landowners feeling apprehensive and there will have to be a lot of negotiation but I dont envisage serious problems. We dont want to be on bad terms with anyone and we understand the landowners position but at the same time there is a lot of interesting walking along that stretch of coastline. The Wolds have quite good access but, generally, East Yorkshire, being a largely arable farming area, has quite a low density of rights of way compared with other regions so the coast path is a welcome addition. Negotiating the route will take time but it will be worth waiting for.

Others however, are less convinced. The Country Landowners and Business Association fiercely opposed the new law, calling it as an assault of private landowners rights. Dorothy Fairburn, its regional director said: Landowners are law-abiding people so we have to accept this is now law and work within it. However, we will continue to support our members on the coast and advise them on how they can appeal against the path going over their land or business so that it causes as little disruption as possible.

She said some caravan owners may be reluctant to keep their vans on hitherto private sites that would now have a public footpath running through them while the roll back provision would be particularly difficult for arable farmers already losing land to the sea.

She also questioned the value of the path. People have talked about the economic benefits it will bring but they use figures from the South West Coast Path. That is a dramatic coastline which people go to from all over the country to walk.

For all its other attractions I cannot see that happening in Holderness. This path will be used mainly by a few local people and that will be it. Given the current state of the public finances, Im not sure anyone could argue that coastal access is a priority. It will cause a lot of disruption for almost zero benefit.

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