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England's Coastal Access

England's Coast Path in the east of England.

Weybourne to Sea Palling

New access rights came into force for the first Norfolk stretch of the England Coast Path, Natural England announced 12 December 2014. This will enable people to enjoy 41 kilometres of coastline between Sea Palling and Weybourne. See press release

Further information on this Coastal Access section and other areas can be found on the Natural England Coastal Access web page

Sea Palling to Hopton-on-Sea

The 31km stretch of the Norfolk coast between Hopton-on-Sea and Sea Palling was officially opened in October 2016 - details including video can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/walkers-to-enjoy-new-stretch-of-coast-path-in-norfolk and for further information go to https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/england-coast-path-hopton-on-sea-to-sea-palling

Weybourne to Hunstanton

Natural England has begun to investigate how to improve coastal access along a 61 km stretch of the Norfolk coast between Weybourne and Hunstanton. This new access is expected to be ready in 2019. For further information on this section go to https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/england-coast-path-weybourne-to-hunstanton

Update from Natural England (NE) regarding progress on Weybourne to Hunstanton Stretch of England Coast Path (Feb 2019)

'A Planning Inspector has been appointed to take an independent look at the objections received following the NE report for the Weybourne to Hunstanton stretch on 21/3/18 and advise the Secretary of State on these. The first step is for them to determine which objections are admissible under the legislation, and we have been expecting the Planning Inspectorate to advise objectors on this for a while.

Proposals for this stretch included statutory restrictions to exclude the new coastal access rights to two areas of saltmarsh on grounds of public safety: Wells-next-the-Sea - approximately 6 km2 of coastal margin adjacent to approximately 4 km of proposed trail; Burnham Overy Staithe - approximately 0.37 km2 of coastal margin adjacent to approximately 700m of proposed trail.

We reached these recommendations on the basis of expert advice from the emergency services, to keep people safe on a coastline where tides can catch out people unfamiliar with the local area. Following publication, a large number of objections and representations were received and these largely focus on the restrictions and a perception that existing use by tradition, permission or common law would be affected. Whilst this is not the case, some limited areas subject to CROW 'open access' rights at Burnham Overy Staithe would be affected. Most people who made an objection or representation asked for the existing access arrangements to be maintained.

We therefore reviewed the evidence behind these proposals, analysed any new information brought forward in objections and representations and held structured conversations with a selection of key partners and sought further data from rescue services. This uncovered additional information we weren't aware of when we made our proposals, which we are using to consider whether our proposals are still reasonable. The information we've been given by local people shows us how these areas are being used locally and suggests there are potentially ways, other than statutory restrictions, of managing this use to minimise risk. This review is not yet complete but we do expect that we will make some alternative recommendations to the Secretary of State on this, which we hope will meet local concerns.

We are now considering if anything needs to be done to protect the species and habitats for which these sites are designated in the absence of these proposed safety restrictions. At Burnham we don't believe anything is needed but this review is ongoing for Wells where we are still collecting and analysing evidence. If a nature conservation restriction is required we will consult on this separately.

Alongside this review a separate matter has come up which affects the whole country and which we also need to take into account. This is the recent ruling at the Court of Justice of the European Union in the matter of People Over Wind. This requires us to take our proposals through an appropriate assessment. This affects a very large number of our reports and each will need an appropriate assessment to be done for them in turn. It will be approximately 6 months before we have completed this.

Once our review of the safety restrictions and appropriate assessment are complete we will submit our comments on the objections and associated representations received to the Planning Inspectorate who will advise the Secretary of State on these. The Secretary of State will then determine our proposals. This stage of the process sits outside Natural England and is completely independent of us to ensure fairness. It's hard to say how long it will but experience to date suggest it could be upwards of 18 months before our report is determined for this stretch. '

Ralph Barnett, Team Leader  - Statutory Access (National Trails and Open Access), National Operations Team, Natural England

Natural England Press Release on 31 July 2009

Mapping the gaps in Englands coastal access

Natural England publishes region by region maps showing that the public do not have full access to over a third of Englands coastline as Marine & Coastal Access Bill presents opportunity to open over 900 miles of coastline

The findings come as the result of an extensive audit conducted by Natural England, in partnership with 53 local access authorities - into existing access to Englands coast. The results have been published in the form of a series of maps, identifying the huge differences between regions in their provision of public access to the coast. The audit shows that there is no satisfactory or legally secure access to 34% of the English coast. The figure is broadly similar for the East of England region.

With no-one living more than 70 miles from the coast, Englands coastline remains enormously popular as a place to visit and to sample some of Europes finest scenery and wildlife. Estimates point to 246 million trips being made to the coast in a single year. Natural Englands audit estimates that 13 per cent of the existing coastal rights of way could be lost to erosion in the next 20 years. Provisions in the forthcoming Bill allow for the new route to be made erosion proof through adjustments.

Summary of Audit Findings:

  • The East of England coastline is 859km (534 miles) long; this represents 19% of the total national audited length. A satisfactory legally secure path runs along 68% of its length. Natural Englands audit reveals that there is no satisfactory, legally secure access along 32%, or 275km, (171 miles) of coast.
  • Natural Englands audit maps show all existing paths that are not legally-secure as a gap. This will include existing permissive paths and those used on a de-facto (by tradition) basis. Neither of these types of use, even if existing, constitute a legal right and could be removed at relatively short notice. They cover a multitude of circumstances, from very informal locally exercised arrangements to funded contractual agreements. Gaps also include sections of coast with no path at all.
  • Following the launch of the Marine & Coastal Access Bill, planning, designation and path creation of the new route will take place between 2010 and 2020. It is estimated that it will be a minimum of 3 years before the first indicative local routes are identified.
  • Regional breakdowns:

Region ~ Total length of coast ~ Existing secure access
North West ~ 421 miles ~ 44%
North East ~ 183 miles ~ 67%
Yorkshire and Humber ~ 174 miles ~ 70%
East Midlands ~ 98 miles ~ 61%
East of England ~ 534 miles ~ 68%
South East ~ 569 miles ~ 63%
South West ~ 768 miles ~ 76%

Norfolk Coast Path National Trail (from Hunstanton to Cromer) User Survey 2006 indicates:

  • Annual income generation of over £2m visitor spend.
  • This spend supports 104 FTE jobs.
  • 70% of restaurants, pubs and cafés thought the route important or very important to their business.


East of England audit map:
Natural Englands full set of audit maps and report are available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/england-coast-path-improving-public-access-to-the-coast

Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. We conserve and enhance the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings. www.naturalengland.org.uk

*Data taken from England Leisure Visit Survey 2005