Farmers warn of pitfalls as Natural England looks at coast path route from Weybourne to Sea Palling

Farmers have warned that the government has 'a lot of work to do' to thrash out a route for the first Norfolk section of a planned round-Britain coast path.

Ministers want to draw up an unbroken path to ensure that people can walk all around the coast of the UK without getting into danger or in trouble with local landowners.

Yesterday, farmers met with the Norfolk branch of the National Farmers Union (NFU) and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) to hear what progress is being made on finding a route on the 39km stretch from Weybourne to Sea Palling,

The stretch has been selected by the government as one of five UK pilot areas for the pathway, and Natural England has written to say it will be 'walking the course' between August and December to begin to identify the best route.

After the meeting at Woodland Holiday Park at Trimingham, which was attended by 10 farmers as others were engaged in the annual harvest, Paul Hammett, environment adviser for NFU in the eastern region, said it had been 'pretty constructive'.

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He said: 'Natural England wrote to all the landowners and farmers last week as a courtesy to tell them they would be walking the course between August and December to research the stretch and work out the most appropriate route on the ground of an unbroken trail.

'It's this idea of being able to walk around the British coastline without a break.'

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He added: 'Natural England will be making contact with farmers and landowners and having one-to-one meetings to try to agreement on the best route.

'The point of this session was to give those farmers and landowners some background understanding of what it's all about. It's not about challenging the idea of a coastal route, but about negotiating.'

He said there were 'all sorts of issues' for farmers, particularly around any potential impact on their farms.

He said: 'They want to make sure the trail doesn't go near their crops. They are also thinking about trespass.

'The farmers are broadly comfortable with the idea of coastal access, but I think that they believe that the existing network of official and unofficial paths is working well.

'Quite a lot of work needs to be done by the government to reassure farmers that their farms will not be affected.'

Once Natural England has consulted with all farmers and landowners, a draft route will be drawn up, which will then be put out for public consultation. The aim is to agree a final route by 2014, with other areas to follow in future years.

Mr Hammett said one of the key issues between Weybourne and Sea Palling was to draw up a route that was able to 'move' in line with long-term coastal erosion.

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