Landowners claim public money is being used unnecessarily to gain access to the coast
- Credit: Vicki Grace
Landowners have accused the government of using public money unnecessarily to replicate access to the coast that already existed.
The accusation comes as Natural England announced that work was officially underway along every stretch of the England Coast Path.
The CLA which represents landowners who own the private land affected by the route said access was already provided before Natural England began the project in 2009.
It suggests the millions of pounds spent on delivery would have been better channelled to improving facilities already on the established coastal paths.
CLA east regional surveyor Tim Woodward said: 'It is disappointing that the government is spending so much time and public money unnecessarily on a project which largely replicates existing access to the coast. The money is being spent to solve a problem which didn't exist in the first place.'
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He said there was already access to 84pc of the coast before Natural England began the project.
'And as the rollout is showing, access to the rest is often not possible because of crucial conservation sites, ports, harbours or military bases.
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'If the Government wanted to spend money on the coast it would have been better allocated to improving maintenance, signs, toilets and car parks on already established paths.'
Mr Woodward said Natural England's reassessment of existing access was unnecessary.
'A path is a path. We would urge the Government to follow the coastal access model successfully delivered in Wales which achieved an 870-mile complete coast path in a shorter timescale and at a cost of less than £10 million to the taxpayer.'
Natural England said it was now working on the entire length of the 2,700 mile walking route.
Natural England's Chairman Andrew Sells said he was proud of the strides taken in the project.
He said: 'We are now working on all sections of our beautiful and varied coastline so the ability to walk the longest, continuous coastal walking route in the world is on the horizon.'
So far Natural England has opened just over 300 miles of coastline. The new routes link up existing coastal paths, create new ones, and in some cases move paths nearer the sea. A 21-mile section opened between Hopton-on-Sea and Sea Palling in October last year.