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Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009


Section 305: Restricting liabilities of Natural England and the Secretary of State

791.There are many dangers on the coast and this section makes clear that Natural England does not have unlimited responsibility for the safety of people who choose to use the route or associated access land. Subsection (1)(a) removes any duty of care owed by Natural England under the law of negligence when preparing or proposing the coastal route. Subsection (1)(b) removes any duty of care owed by Natural England under the law of negligence in connection with any failure by it to erect notices and signs warning of obstacles or hazards. This is because Natural England cannot assume responsibility for erecting such notices and signs for every obstacle or hazard that exists. It is expected that Natural England will erect notices or signs only when it is aware that there is an obstacle or hazard which is unusual or cannot be easily identified by the public. Subsection (1)(c) removes any duty of care owed by Natural England under the law of negligence in connection with any failure by it to exclude or restrict access under Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the CROW Act, except a failure within subsection (2). Subsection (2)(a) relates to where Natural England has decided not to act in accordance with an application made under section 24  of the CROW Act, which relates to a direction for the purposes of land management, or an application under section 25 of that Act, which relates to a direction for the purpose of fire protection or avoiding a danger to the public. Subsection (2)(b) relates to where Natural England does not act in accordance with representations under section 27(5) of that Act, which relates to consultation with the original applicant before revoking or varying a direction made under sections 24 or 25 of that Act. Subsection (3) restricts the liability of anyone acting on Natural England’s behalf in the same way. This would for example, apply to Natural England’s employees and agents.

792.Subsection (4) makes it clear that the Secretary of State does not owe any duty of care under the law of negligence when approving proposals for a coastal long-distance route or giving a direction for the variation of such proposals.

Section 306: Occupiers’ liability

793.The CROW Act amended section 1 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 in certain respects including by removing the liability of occupiers of access land to those exercising the right of access, and to trespassers, in respect of risks arising from natural features of the landscape “or any river, stream, ditch or pond whether or not a natural feature”. This exclusion of liability is subject to certain safeguards and does not apply if the danger is due to anything done by the landowner with the intention of creating that risk, or being reckless as to whether that risk is created.

794.This section extends this exclusion of liability, for land which is coastal margin, in respect of a risk resulting from any physical feature (whether of the landscape or otherwise). Coastal land includes many man-made features, for example war-time defences. Occupiers should enjoy the same reduced liability for these as they enjoy for natural features.

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