DEFRA – MARINE AND COASTAL ACCESS BILL – 27 October 2009

Dr Julian Lewis: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for taking this late intervention, but he spoke about the application of common sense to coastal access. Natural England has said that 37 per cent. of coastal pathways in the south-east are not yet legally secure. The Bill is intended to make them secure, but many of those pathways already have informal access. Common sense dictates that Natural England should follow that informal access and not lay down new access routes. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House about that?

[The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, but the Bill is designed to allow such matters to be addressed locally. I am sure that he will accept that there is no substitute for walking the route and seeing what is there on the ground. In that way sensible and pragmatic solutions to problems of access can be found, in keeping with the provisions of the Bill. The spirit in which the issue has been approached as it was scrutinised during the passage of the Bill will, I hope, have given hon. Members and others who have a great deal of interest in how it is progressed some confidence that that will be done in a common-sense way.]