This year is set to see plenty of progress on the creation of the Northumberland section of the England Coast Path – a single route all the way round the English coastline.
As previously reported, the ambitious Natural England project has recently started work in the county.
A report to Monday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s north area committee provides members with an update with what has happened in the county so far and what is to take place in the coming year.
As the report explains, ‘a promoted coast path already exists in Northumberland between Cresswell and Berwick, but the new England Coast Path will allow the existing path to be extended to the county boundary in the north and south as well as allowing those sections of the existing path that do not closely follow the coast to be realigned’.
‘The new legal framework for the path will also allow it to roll back when it becomes threatened by coastal erosion or flooding’.
At the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership’s Annual Forum in November last year, one of the guest speakers was Andrew Best, from Natural England.
He is responsible for the section of path from Skegness all the way up to the Scottish Border and explained that the overall aim is to tackle the postcode lottery of rights and management standards, with the process for each smaller stretch taking about three years.
User certainty and confidence is key. “It’s in everyone’s interest to know where you can go and where you can’t go, ” Mr Best said.
The route needs to be future-proof and flexible, driven by national momentum, but with local involvement.
As such, Northumberland County Council will work with Natural England to ensure that the path is established as soon as possible and to bring forward the target completion dates where possible.
The funding and timetable for the creation of the path is controlled by Natural England and it has divided the Northumberland coast into four sections for implementation, with the following target dates:
• Seaton Sluice to Amble – start summer 2015, complete March 2018;
• Amble to Bamburgh – start spring/summer 2016, complete spring 2019;
• Lindisfarne – commence early 2017, complete 2020;
• Bamburgh to Scottish border – start early 2017, complete 2020.
The report explains: ‘The detailed work of devising the route for each section of the path, liaising and consulting with landowners, and preparing a final report for submission to the Secretary of State for approval, will be led by Natural England, but the county council (as access authority) will be involved in assisting with this process.
‘Once the route has been confirmed by the Secretary of State, the county council’s countryside and green spaces team (part of neighbourhood services) will be responsible for undertaking all the necessary work to establish the route on the ground, including the erection of gates, bridges, signage, etc, and the improvement of path surfaces where necessary.
‘All the council’s costs in assisting with devising and establishing the path will be met by Natural England’.