Salt marshes in north Norfolk could be declared off limits to the public under proposals being drawn up by Natural England.

%image(14727975, type="article-full", alt="Marsh and Overy Creak channel at Burnham Overy Staithe. Natural England have said these areas of salt marshes are not suitable for the public and good be off limits. Picture: Lorraine Clayton")

The public body wants to exclude the general public from accessing areas of marsh at Burnham Overy Staithe and Wells.

It says the measures, which are included in its proposed route of the England Coast Path between Hunstanton and Weybourne, would 'have the effect of enhancing existing conservation objectives'.

%image(14727976, type="article-full", alt="Local water sports activities are held on the marsh areas of Burnham Overy Staithe. Picture: Holly Smith")

In a report outlining the measures, officials say that the establishment of the England Coast Path could attract more walkers to the area, increasing pressure on birds such as terns, redshank and ringed plover.

%image(14727977, type="article-full", alt="Residents of Burnham Overy Staithe have raised their concerns following Natural England's proposal to exclude the public from areas of salt marshes because they are "unsuitable". Picture: Holly Smith")

Two locations have also been identified as 'unsuitable for public access'.

Natural England said it made the decisions following advice from 'local stakeholders and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution'.

However, proposals have angered and frustrated many in the coastal communities who have said there has been a lack of prior notice to the proposals.

Burnham Market resident David Baldry has said the proposals are 'poorly thought out'.

%image(14727978, type="article-full", alt="A egret flies over the marshes at Burnham Overy Staithe. Picture: Lorraine Clayton")

%image(14727979, type="article-full", alt="The sand and marshes at Burnham Overy Staithe. Natural England have proposed to exclude the general public from accessing the marshes due to it being "unsuitable for public access”. Picture: Lorraine Clayton")

He said: 'The salt marsh at Burnham Overy Staithe provides for a host of recreational pursuits.

'In the warm summer months at low tide, many local children go swimming along the creeks after school, mud sliding on the banks, collect samphire, families and visitors to the area explore the creeks and salt marshes – this access to a wonderful wild and natural environment is what draws tourists to Norfolk and contributes so significantly to our rural economy.'

Michael Smith, who lives in Burnham Thorpe, is a common rights holder and would not be affected by the proposals.

He said he accepts the conservation needs at Wells but says there is no risk to public safety on the marshes around Burnham.

The 47-year-old, who is also chairman of the Scolt Head and District Common Rights Holders Association, said he does not feel Natural England is providing answers to questions to his questions.

'When you ask around there seems to be no local stakeholders who say they have been asked,' he said. 'I have asked but they clearly are not preparing to give names.'

Natural England's response

Natural England have said the proposals will not affect any existing access to the marshes for common rights holders or other walkers who use the area through informal agreements with landowners.

Sarah Dawkins, area manager for Norfolk and Suffolk, said: 'When developing our coastal access proposals we have to make sure they don't impact negatively on the environment, or create unforeseeable safety issues for walkers.

'Following advice from local stakeholders and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, we've proposed some restrictions excluding the new coastal access rights from just two areas of saltmarsh at Wells and Burnham Overy Staithe.'

People are encouraged to view the proposals and to comment up until Wednesday, May 16.

For more information visit click here.

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