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Petition Launched to Fight Ban on Marsh Access

Author: Anthony Annakin-Smith Published: 18th January 2021 11:07

A petition has been launched to fight the proposed ban on access to the marsh at Parkgate and Neston.

This article has been superseded - please see here

The year-round ban on public access to a vast area of local marshland is proposed by Natural England, as part of their plan to establish an England Coastal path. Please refer to previous artcles about the proposal here and also Anthony's recent article in our 'Have Your Say' section- your contributions are always welcome.

A petition has been launched by local resident Anthony Annakin-Smith. He said "The marsh has been used for decades by locals for a variety of reasons. It is a marvellous natural wilderness on our doorstep and there is no reason why people should not be allowed to continue to enjoy it.'

Natural England's main justification for the ban is that the marsh "is unsuitable for public access" claiming there have been incidents in the area where people needed to be rescued. However, their report gives no details of any such incidents.

Anthony commented: "If there have been any rescue incidents at all, as Natural England allege, they have been few and far between. In any event, if parts of our countryside are going to be closed because they are ‘unsuitable for public access', with a risk of rescue being needed, then every mountain and moorland should be roped off immediately. Frankly, it's a ridiculous reason."

If you wish to help the fight to allow people to retain marsh access you can find the petition here.

Please also contact your local town and borough councillor and write to Natural England at bhw.coastalaccess@naturalengland.org.uk


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At 15:49 on 18th January 2021, patandkeith commented:
Natural England is not proposing a year long ban on public access, or a ban of any other length. Their proposals for the Parkgate/ Welsh border are available via https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/944525/birkenhead-welsh-border-report-3.PDF
Section 3.2.20 states 'are intended to avoid any new public access rights being created' but goes on to state that 'any use of the land by existing right' will not be prevented, i.e. no new rights but no removal of existing rights.
By all means respond to the consultation by asking that further Public Access rights are granted but not on the incorrect grounds that any existing rights are being taken away.

Anthony A
At 17:13 on 18th January 2021, Anthony A commented:
Thank you patandkeith.

The document is poorly written and probably needs a legal mind to unpick but, as I read it, I beg to differ. The relevant section (3.2.20) refers to ‘rights’ of access, which I take to mean things such as ‘rights of way’ or, say, bridleways (the document specifically mentions cyclists and horse riders). However, the part you mention specifically excludes situations where there are ‘coastal access rights’ which is what I understand applies here.

The bit of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act which Natural England reference (in 3.2.17) specifically allows the ‘relevant authority’ to exclude or restrict access to saltmarsh if it is ‘unsuitable for public access’. I believe they are seeking to exercise this power. I am afraid that I read the phrase ‘Access to the land in the coastal margin seaward of route sections […] is to be excluded all year round’ as meaning just that.

Leaving aside the legalese, the gist of it is Natural England are saying salt marsh is dangerous, they want to prevent people getting into danger (as they see it), and there is a specific bit of law which lets them do that. It would not make sense for them to claim all that and then go on to say ‘but we’ll let everyone carry on doing it anyway’.

I would love to be proved wrong on this one but fear that I won’t be. I have written to Natural England and if I get an answer will advise.
At 18:17 on 18th January 2021, patandkeith commented:
I have spoke to them this morning
At 20:27 on 18th January 2021, patandkeith commented:
but you are right to check
Anthony A
At 08:55 on 19th January 2021, Anthony A commented:
Thank you patandkeith.

My concern remains that the section 25A of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) which Natural England are invoking gives the power to exclude access to saltmarsh - not merely to exclude the acquisition of future rights to access. Their plan to erect signage at various points saying that people should keep off the marsh would also suggest the same intention. In any event I am not clear to what extent the public currently have the legal 'right' to access the marsh. As you suggest, I will continue to look into this to try to get a crystal clear explanation.
At 11:44 on 20th January 2021, Bob commented:
"Natural England's main justification for the ban is that the marsh "is unsuitable for public access" claiming there have been incidents in the area where people needed to be rescued. However, their report gives no details of any such incidents."
Can anyone provided and information these 'incidents?
Anthony A
At 13:25 on 21st January 2021, Anthony A commented:
I certainly can't Bob.

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