Natural England has published its proposals to improve public access along a 37-mile stretch of coast between Weybourne and Hunstanton.
There is now a period of eight weeks for legal interests and members of the public to make objections or representations that the Secretary of State must take into account when considering whether to approve the proposals.
The proposed route follows much of the popular Norfolk Coast Path National Trail, which gives people access to the unique seascape of the North Norfolk Heritage Coast, and the unspoilt landscape of the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The proposals include small improvements to make the area more accessible, such as kissing-gates at Brancaster and Wells, and new access along a short section at Morston Downs to avoid a set of steps.
New access is also proposed between Thornham and Brancaster to bring the trail closer to the sea.
This stretch of coast is dynamic and subject to ongoing change. The proposals therefore incorporate the recommendation that the coast path would be able to “roll back” in response to this in order to maintain a continuous route for walkers in perpetuity.
The proposals take account of important coastal habitats and the wildlife they support, and are designed to complement and enhance existing on-site management measures at sites already popular with visitors.
For example they include interpretation of the unique habitats at Holkham NNR and advice on how the public can protect them.
The trail links a string of small picturesque coastal villages with the larger settlements of Hunstanton and Wells. Natural highlights for walkers include the dramatic orange and white striped cliffs at Hunstanton, great birdwatching at Cley and Titchwell Nature Reserves and the opportunity to take a seal trip to Blakeney Point.
For those keen to relax and leave their car at home the coastline is also served by the Coast Hopper Bus.
If approved, this route will become part of the England Coast Path – the 2,700-mile long distance walking route and England’s newest National Trail currently being developed around the entire English coast by Natural England.
This is the third stretch of the England Coast Path to be developed in Norfolk, the first route between Sea Palling and Weybourne being opened in December 2014 and the second route between Hopton to Sea Palling being opened in October 2016. Work on the final Norfolk section, from Hunstanton to Sutton Bridge started in 2015.
Sarah Dawkins, Natural England’s area manager for Norfolk said: “We are delighted to publish our proposals for coastal access along this third stretch of coast in Norfolk today. This takes us another step forward to establishing the England Coast Path around the full length of the Norfolk Coast. I would like to thank everyone who’s worked with us for their time and input as we developed these proposals. Over the next 8 weeks we are inviting all organisations, farmers, local residents, visitors and businesses to have their say. It’s important to us that we understand everyone’s opinions and all the responses received will be taken into account and we look forward to hearing people’s views.”
Martin Wilby, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s environment, development and transport committee said: “The ambitious national England Coast Path project is very exciting as National Trails right across the country are a gem treasured by many. Norfolk’s 84-mile Coast Path is much loved and well used with over 245,000 visitors last year (2016/17). We’ve been managing the Norfolk Coast Path for more than 30 years and know our stunning coastline is one of the great things that attracts so many people to visit, work and live in our wonderful county. We’re keen for the coast path’s popularity to continue well into the future and we very much welcome this opportunity to see Natural England’s proposals, and will be taking a close look at the detail over the coming weeks.”
Anyone can make representations to Natural England about the report during the eight week period. Owners and occupiers of affected land can make objections about the report on specified grounds, which will be considered by a Planning Inspector before the Secretary of State makes a final decision.
All representations and objections must be received by Natural England no later than midnight on May 16. Copies of the report can be viewed in local libraries and Norfolk County Council offices. The full report and all the forms and guidance on how to make a representation or objection within the next eight weeks are also available on the GOV.UK website.