UPDATED TUESDAY 09:44
THE COUNTRY Land and Business Association (CLA) on the Isle of Wight has hit out over government plans to create a coastal path around the whole of the Island, branding the proposals an absurd waste of taxpayer’s money.
As previously reported, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has decided that public access to the Island’s coast will now be reviewed by Natural England as part of a project to create a long distance path along England’s coastline.
Belinda Walters, CLA director Isle of Wight, said: "We are very disappointed with the announcement that the Island should be included within the legislation, reversing a sensible decision from the previous consultation exercise.
"The Isle of Wight already has very good coastal access, including a coastal path around 67 miles long which is signed and promoted as such for Island walkers and visitors.
"Along with the existing coastal path, it is widely acknowledged that there is a higher density of footpaths on the Isle of Wight than anywhere else in the UK.
"The long and unwarranted coastal access process will be a huge waste of taxpayer’s money and a waste of Natural England’s time and resources."
She added: "It has been claimed that changing current coastal access arrangements will provide a huge economic boost for the Island, but this is simply not the case.
"Marginal increases to coastal access will not attract thousands of additional tourists who would not have visited the Island otherwise, and for some rural businesses, changes could have a detrimental effect.
"The risk must also be that whilst waiting for this process to begin, visitors will be put off visiting the Island as our existing valuable coastal path will be ignored.
"The coastal access process through Natural England will take several years to complete. To add to the absurdity of the situation, it is possible that the review’s outcome will not result in changes to the current access arrangements anyway."
Isle of Wight NFU adviser, James Osman, said creating the costal path could have a negative effect on both wildlife and farming on the Isle of Wight.
He said: "The Isle of Wight already has 67 miles of coastal path and 500 miles of other public rights of way. The creation of a new path would duplicate the existing resource and may prevent other sections of path from being established. This would represent an extraordinary waste of resources and a wasted opportunity to complete other sections of coastal path in England on an already limited budget."
He added: "We suggest that an additional path and additional recreational access would unfairly discriminate against farming interests on the Island, which is contrary to the published guidance that the path must strike a fair balance between public access and relevant land interests."