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Plan for New Coast Path Restricts Countryside Access

Author: Anthony Annakin-Smith Published: 11th January 2021 11:42

AboutMyArea Neston reader Anthony Annakin-Smith writes to express his concern that residents may be surprised to learn that a scheme intended to open up the great outdoors includes plans to ban access to thousands of acres of countryside on our doorstep.

Detailed proposals for the stretch of the England Coast Path which passes through our area have recently been published and these include a proposal to prevent the public accessing the marsh adjacent to Parkgate and Neston.

Coastal path map for Wirral to Welsh Border






















The England Coast Path is a route which runs around the entire coast of the country. The local stretch will join the Wales Coast Path which is already complete.

While many locals may not have walked on the marsh it does attract, amongst others, responsible walkers, bird-watchers, photographers and groups studying the unique salt-marsh environment.

The marsh is a stunning and unique local resource and a joy to wander over. It has been used by locals for decades, and is crossed by the well-known Fisherman's Path. While I am in favour of the England Coast Path in principle, I do not believe Natural England using this project as a pretext to slip in a prohibition on using this wonderful asset on our doorstep. Why is the development of a simple linear path being used to justify a ban on access to a vast area?'

Natural England's report on the local stretch of path claims that the marsh ‘is unsuitable for public access' due to ‘frequent tidal inundation'. It claims that ‘people [have had to be] rescued from these areas' although no details of such rescues are given.

I'd be interested to see the records of such incidents but, if there have been any, they are few and far between. In any event, being ‘unsuitable' is a ridiculous justification for this proposal. Presumably, using the same logic, every high hill and mountain in the country should also be closed given that they are subject to frequent severe weather, sometimes leading to helicopter rescues. Will Natural England also be preventing people walking from West Kirby to Hilbre!

People can comment on the proposal by contacting Natural England at bhw.coastalaccess@naturalengland.org.uk before the 10th February. The full report can be found here.

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At 13:52 on 13th January 2021, christine commented:
Whilst we should not be discouraging or banning people from certain areas of the marshes. I am completely horrified by the amount of rubbish that I am encountering on the marshes since we have been in lockdown. Packets of sandwiches, cans of drink, sweet wrappers. This is an area where we have a secluded sanctuary for nesting birds, I fear not anymore.
Susan C
At 14:23 on 13th January 2021, Susan C commented:
Steph: WWII was 80 years ago - can you be precise and say just how many rescue incidents there have been on the marshes? I would guess that in the scale of national hazards it must feature pretty far down compared to mountain walking/climbing, sailboarding, cycling on main roads, hiking on Dartmoor in winter etc etc. I don't think there is any question of the marshes being treated 'as a playground for recreational use by all those who visit the area'. I find the notion of forbidding access to be very worrying. Will there be a big fence?
Deb C
At 15:51 on 13th January 2021, Deb C commented:
I agree with Susan on the comment made about the marshes being used as a 'playground' - most of those visiting this particular area either wizz through on bicycles or pause and peer through binoculars. The area spreading out from the bottom of Marshlands Road has always been a walker's paradise but more significantly, part of our community, our home. To be denied access on spurious claims of unquantified rescues, does seem something of a stretch. If you look to the RNLI Hoylake online record of their 'shouts', nothing recently comes closer to us than Thurstaston, even Flint Coastguard don't mention our side of the Dee!
Christine, I totally agree with your observations about the litter issue (indeed, the BBC Countryfile et al have recently drawn attention to this being a national issue) but the root cause for such blatant disregard for the environment is not really resolved in the blanket ban on access that this scheme is proposing.
One issue which concerns me is the lack of consistency in the report about our specific area and the Overview document that has to be ferreted out of the government website...one claims the need for the ban is for safety reasons, the other prioritises the scientific/wildlife issues. Such 'wooliness' from a public body really should raise alarms about how comprehensively they have 'fact checked' (what a dreadful phrase!) the claims cited to prevent our children and future generations revelling in what the original contributor rightfully describes as our 'stunning and unique local resource'.
Many of us in Little Neston will have incredibly fond memories of hours spent exploring out amongst the tall grasses, wafting insects and butterflies, listening to the bird life and breathing in the unmistakeable aroma of the marshy mud...I hate to think future generations will be denied such simple pleasures.
CO Jones
At 21:50 on 13th January 2021, CO Jones commented:
I don't really fully understand what the proposal is but i do know I will be walking on the marsh extensively as long as I have the ability to walk. And collecting samphire. And sitting out there and just enjoying the tranquility.

Some things are just more important that petty bureaucracy.

At 11:43 on 14th January 2021, Steph commented:
All.... the point i was making doesn't really relate to the folks from Neston / Parkgate who have and do use the marsh as an area for recreation / fishing / shooting / swimming collecting Sampkin etc etc, the point i was highlighting is that since the cycle route has been opened up along the old John Summers road, past the dogs head and the old Kop bank is the amount of people that now wander out onto the marsh at the burton end has increased dramatically, the marshes in those areas are not safe for the majority of visitors and tehy are important resting grounds for thousands of Ducks, Geese and waders who cant afford to be disturbed during certain times of the year. Not to mention the MOD firing range which although clearly signposted still attracts a portion of folks to go and take a look. I am not for shutting down the countryside, i am just conscious of the real risks that the marsh presents to some folks...
At 22:35 on 15th January 2021, patandkeith commented:
Natural England are tasked with determining the English Coastal path for consultation/ approval. They may also recommend new public access to the seaward of the path and spreading room from the path inland. For the Parkgate Welsh Borders stage they are not recommending 'any new public rights being created for land management, Nature conservation etc reasons. This does not prevent or affect the use of the land by existing rights, in that respect no change
At 19:35 on 16th January 2021, patandkeith commented:
Natural England are not introducing a prohibition and in respect of the Coastal Path have no power to prohibit anything.
Anthony A
At 20:10 on 16th January 2021, Anthony A commented:
Thank you all for your interesting comments. Whichever side of the fence you are on (literally?), it is good to see people taking an interest in this issue.

I agree with Deb C’s comments that the document appears to be inconsistent in its reasoning for the proposed ban and that this muddled thinking is itself cause for concern.

Steph – you make a good point about risk. I fully accept it but one of Natural England’s proposals is to erect signage at various points to warn of the dangers of the marsh. I think that’s a perfectly sound idea, provided it allows people the option to decide if they then want to take on that risk.

Regarding PatandKeith’s points I wish I were able to agree with you. Again, the wording in places is unclear but I can only take at face value the statements ‘Access to the land in the coastal margin seaward of route section … is to be excluded all year round’ (para. 3.2.17) and, in map BHW 3B, ‘Proposed long term access exclusion: salt marsh and flat s25a no public access – all year’. I would love Natural England (NE) not to have the power to do what they are saying but I can’t see why they would say it unless they could, and the document references directive powers in Section 25A of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000 (para. 3.2.17).

I’ll be writing to Natural England about the above, and other concerns I have, and will also be asking local councillors and organisations to consider doing so too. I hope other local residents will take similar actions.
Anthony A
At 10:23 on 18th January 2021, Anthony A commented:
Just to follow up on a point above: a contact at Natural England has confirmed to me that Natural England do indeed have the powers to impose local access restrictions.
gone sploggin
At 12:15 on 18th January 2021, gone sploggin commented:
Surely this is classed as part of the "Queens foreshore" and nobody can halt access to and from the marshes. If it is so.. I would say its R.S.P. B. In tow with Natural England to enforce this as they have wanted this for years. Another nail in the coffin for dog walkers...... People walk out there because its not overcome with bicycles and feel safer. It really makes me puke that someone in there ivory towers ( who have probably) never even set eyes on place pass judgement on this... Disgrace...
It's only me
At 13:21 on 18th January 2021, It's only me commented:
While the route from Parkgate to Denhall Lane has been used by local oeople for ever and the issues with tides and gulleys on the marsh common knowledge. Not so for new users encouraged by the Natural England proposal. Being generous to Natural England they will have risk assessed the route so will be over cautious as to their liability if new users just wander off onto the marsh.
II do however think the R.S.P.B. have far to much influence in the decision and hide behind the reason Natural England use as
justification "to reduce the risk of disturbance to breeding, roosting and feeding waterbirds"
CO Jones
At 17:01 on 18th January 2021, CO Jones commented:
The only concern i have had (and have done for years) when enjoying the marsh with the dog is the inability of some dog walkers to understand the importance of not allowing their dog to roam free when it is ground nesting bird season.

Some breeds in particular can be highly disruptive.

As i said in a previous comment, no change here. Good luck with enforcement,

At 22:56 on 19th January 2021, patandkeith commented:
Natural England do have the power to impose local restrictions on Public Access rights they have granted. For example Access Land may temporarily closed for say habitat protection. What they do not have the power to take away existing rights.
The stretch of path near Walney Island Cumbria mirrors the issues highlighted here, existing usage continuing although no new Public Access is created and is worth checking out to put minds a rest
At 22:56 on 19th January 2021, patandkeith commented:
Natural England do have the power to impose local restrictions on Public Access rights they have granted. For example Access Land may temporarily closed for say habitat protection. What they do not have the power to take away existing rights.
The stretch of path near Walney Island Cumbria mirrors the issues highlighted here, existing usage continuing although no new Public Access is created and is worth checking out to put minds a rest

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