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Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009

Section 302: Long-distance routes

756.Subsection (1) of this section inserts new sections into the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (“the 1949 Act”). These sections all refer to the coastal access duty imposed under section 296(1) of the Act and reports prepared pursuant to that duty.

757.Section 55A Proposals relating to the English coastal route. Subsection (1) provides that Natural England may prepare a report proposing a coastal long-distance route, whether or not the requirements of section 51(1) of the 1949 Act are satisfied. This means that proposals may be made even though they relate to a route which does not enable an “extensive” journey, or when the greater part of the length of the route passes along roads used by vehicles. Under subsection (2) it is immaterial that the public are already able to make journeys, as described in section 51(1) of the 1949 Act, by virtue of proposals for a long-distance route that have already been approved under that Act. This is because such existing routes may not be sufficient to discharge the coastal access duty. Subsection (3) defines the term “preliminary activity”. Subsection (4) requires Natural England to consider whether it would be appropriate for the access authority to carry out any such activity and if so Natural England must take all reasonable steps to enter into an agreement with the access authority in relation to that land. Subsection (5) gives access authorities powers to enter into an agreement with Natural England in relation to their area to undertake preliminary activity.

758.Section 55B makes provision for eroding coastlines. Subsection (2) provides that in the situations set out in subsection (3) the report may set out proposals for the route to be determined in accordance with provision in the proposals rather than as shown on a map. Subsection (3) sets out the relevant situations, which are where the area is subject to significant erosion or encroachment by the sea, or to significant physical change due to other geomorphological processes. Under subsection (4) Natural England may describe the route by reference to a cliff edge or a field boundary, “as that cliff edge or field boundary exists from time to time”; this means that as the cliff edge or field boundary changes over time, so will the route. Subsection (5) says that where Natural England makes use of this flexibility, the map of the proposed route contained in the report (as required by section 51 of the 1949 Act) must show the position of the route at the time the map is drawn up. Subsection (6) requires Natural England to consult the Environment Agency before exercising its powers in respect of an area which is subject to significant coastal erosion or encroachment by the sea or to significant physical change due to other geomorphological processes in relation to which the Agency has functions.

759.Section 55C deals with alternative routes. Subsection (3) provides that the report may include alternative routes which will operate as diversions during specified periods, or during those periods when the normal route needs to be closed by direction under Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the CROW Act (for example for land management purposes or for reasons of danger to the public). Subsection (5), taken together with subsection (3), allows this alternative route to operate flexibly, by enabling specified periods of closure to be determined in accordance with the proposal or by a person specified in it, or determined by a person who is in turn determined in accordance with the proposal. For instance it may be that an alternative route should come into operation when a particular breed of bird starts to nest; the time may vary each year and so the alternative route may come into operation on the date that a warden determines that the birds are starting to nest and following the warden putting up a sign to say that the alternative route is in operation. Subsection (4) says that the report may include an alternative route which will operate as an optional alternative to the ordinary route or part of it when the ordinary route might reasonably be regarded as unsuitable for use by reason of flooding, action of the tide, coastal erosion or encroachment by the sea, or the effect of any geomorphological process.

760.Under subsection (6) section 51(2) (which sets out what must be contained in a report proposing a long-distance route), and section 55B (provision for eroding coastlines), apply equally to any alternative route.

761.Section 55D Coastal margin. This section deals with those aspects of a report under section 51 pursuant to the coastal access duty which relate to coastal margin. Section 303 allows the coastal margin to be defined by reference to a long-distance route.

762.Subsection (2)(a) provides that the report under section 51 pursuant to the coastal access duty may provide for the landward boundary of the coastal margin to be drawn either wider or narrower than follows from the normal application of the new section 3A of the CROW Act (inserted by section 303 of the Act) in order to make it coincide with a physical feature (as described in section 3A(2)(d) of the CROW Act). This may be used, for instance, to make the boundary of access land clearer to the user by aligning the boundary with a more physical marking such as a fence or to bring additional land to the landward of the route into the coastal margin. Subsection (2)(b) allows the same flexibility with regard to the route strip for any alternative route. Subsection (2)(c) allows the same flexibility with regard to any land which is made an exception to land of a type to which the right of access does not apply (that is, land which is made an exception to excepted land as set out in Schedule 1 to the CROW Act). This would apply, for instance, in cases where a particular type of land is excepted land except for the route strip and would allow the route strip in these cases to coincide with a physical feature such as a field boundary.

763.Subsection (3) requires Natural England to include in its report a map showing the landward boundary of the relevant coastal access land or a description of the boundary which is sufficient to identify that land. Natural England must also provide under subsection (4) a copy of any map in its report to a person on request with a relevant interest in affected land. Subsection (5) requires Natural England to include details in the report of any restrictions to, or exclusion of, the right of access that it intends to put in place if the proposals are approved, which will have effect when any right of access under the CROW Act comes into force. This will help the reader of the report to understand the implications of the proposals. The subsection makes clear that Natural England does not have to include such details if it does not believe that any restrictions or exclusions are appropriate.

764.Subsection (6) sets out who Natural England is required to consult before the report is prepared. These requirements are in addition to requirements under section 51(4) of the 1949 Act. The subsection makes reference to “a relevant interest in affected land”. For this purpose, “relevant interest” and “affected land” are defined in section 55J.

765.Subsection (7) requires bodies of the type mentioned in section 51(4) of 1949 Act but not required to be consulted under that Act, London borough councils and local access forums to provide information to Natural England when consulted under subsection (6). Subsection (8) requires the Secretary of State, when consulted by Natural England under subsection (6), to provide Natural England with information relating to any exclusion or restriction for the purposes of defence and national security which the Secretary of State proposes to make, and to notify Natural England if any information provided in this respect should not be made public, on the grounds of defence and national security. Subsection (9) requires Natural England to include information which it considers relevant on defence and national security exclusions or restrictions in the report. This is so that the report contains all the information relevant to the proposals made in it. Subsection (10) prohibits Natural England from including information which the Secretary of State has specified should not be included on the grounds of defence and national security.

766.Section 55E Consideration of reports made pursuant to the coastal access duty. This section introduces a new Schedule 1A to the 1949 Act. The text of Schedule 1A to the 1949 Act is contained in Schedule 19 to this Act.

767.Section 55F Directions under Part 1 of the CROW Act. This section provides that if approved proposals relating to a long-distance route provide that certain restrictions and exclusions on the right of access are to be put in place by Natural England under Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the CROW Act, it must put them in place. Subsection (3) makes it clear that Natural England may subsequently revoke or vary these under its powers in the CROW Act.

768.Section 55G Ferries for the purposes of the English coastal route. This section should be read in conjunction with section 53 of the 1949 Act. Section 53 relates to ferries on long-distance routes and provides that they may be provided and operated (or provision may be made for them to be provided and operated) by the highway authority (or either or both of the authorities) for the highways that the ferry will connect – for example the highways on either side of a river crossing. As the English coastal route will not be confined to highways, a ferry for the purposes of the route might not connect two highways, but might instead connect two areas of access land. Section 55G provides that in this case the power lies with the highway authority responsible for the area in which the approach route to the ferry along the English coastal route lies.

769.Section 55H Variation pursuant to the coastal access duty. This section makes provision to ensure that the “procedural requirements” specified in section 55H(4) apply equally to any reports dealing with variations of the coastal route. With respect to any variation made to the coastal route by direction under section 55(2) (which deals with situations where the Secretary of State considers that a variation should be made but Natural England has not made a proposal), subsection (2) provides that the Secretary of State may make regulations for the procedural requirements specified in subsection (4) to apply (with suitable modifications), and subsection (3) provides that the Secretary of State may only make a direction for such a variation if regulations mentioned under subsection (2) are in force.

770.Section 55I Temporary diversions. This section allows Natural England to establish a temporary route if the English coastal route or an official alternative route is closed by a direction under Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the CROW Act. Subsection (2) says that Natural England cannot do this if the direction is permanent; this is because in this case Natural England would be expected to establish a new route using a variation order under section 55. Subsection (3) enables Natural England to give a direction specifying a temporary route. Subsection (4) specifies that the temporary route may only be created over access land as defined by Part 1 of the CROW Act, land which is treated by section 15 of that Act as accessible to the public apart from that Act, along a highway or over any other land the owner of which has agreed to the route insofar as it passes over the land which he owns. Subsection (5) provides that where the temporary route is to pass over land of a type described in subsection (4)(d), that is any other land where the owner has agreed to the route passing over it, then Natural England must consult the Environment Agency before giving a direction. Subsection (6) provides that such a direction must be in writing and enables it to be revoked or varied subsequently.

771.Section 55J Interpretation. A number of definitions for words and expressions used in sections 55A to 55I and Schedule 1A are provided in section 55J. That section also provides that any power to make regulations conferred by those sections or Schedule 1A includes power to make different provision for different cases, and to make incidental, consequential, supplemental or transitional provision or savings.

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