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Access to the English Coast

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The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 received Royal Assent on 12 November 2009.  The 2009 Act introduces a new framework for managing the seas and will also improve public access to the English coast. Part 9 of the Act contains the provisions for improving access to the English coast.

The coastal access provisions in the 2009 Act place a duty on the Secretary of State and Natural England to secure a long distance walking route (“the English coastal route”) around the English coast, and to provide public access to a wider margin of coastal land for open-air recreation.  In doing so, the 2009 Act amends existing legislation – namely the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (the CROW Act).

The text of the 2009 Act and explanatory notes can be found on the Government's website.

Changes to the CROW Act

The new right of access to the coast includes provision for an Order to be made to make changes to the existing provisions in the CROW Act as they apply to coastal land (the existing provisions will remain in place for other access land).  This Order is necessary for the delivery of coastal access because it ensures that coastal land is included within the CROW Act’s description of land to which the public has a right of access – for the purposes of open-air recreation. 

The previous Government ran a public consultation on its proposals for the Order from 8 September to 1 December 2009.  Following analysis of responses, The Access to the Countryside (Coastal Margin) (England) Order 2010 [SI 2010 No. 558] was laid before Parliament on 20 January 2010, and came into force on 6 April 2010.

Natural England's Coastal Access Scheme

Section 298 of the 2009 Act requires Natural England to prepare a Scheme setting out the approach it will take in implementing coastal access.  Between 13 November 2009 and 5 February 2010, Natural England carried out a public consultation on a full version of its draft Scheme.  230 responses were received, which were then analysed by both independent consultants and by Natural England.  As a result, some changes were made and incorporated into the final version of the Scheme before it was submitted to the Secretary of State for approval.

The Scheme received approval on 23 March 2010 and, as required by the Act, was then laid before Parliament (on 25 March) and published (on 26 March).

Changes to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949

Schedule 19 to the 2009 Act introduces a new Schedule 1A into the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.  Schedule 1A sets out the process which will be followed when a coastal access report is submitted to the Secretary of State and provides for regulations to be made to cover the process in which representations and objections may be made to proposals contained in a Natural England coastal access report.  Objections made by a person with a relevant interest in affected land may be referred to an appointed person for consideration. 

Between 22 March and 14 June 2010, a public consultation was held on proposals for these regulations.  60 responses were received from a wide range of organisations and individuals, and following analysis of comments received, the proposed regulations were amended in some areas.  The Coastal Access Reports (Consideration and Modification Procedure) (England) Regulations 2010 were laid before Parliament on 11 August 2010, and subsequently came into force on 1 October 2010.


The decision by the previous Government to legislate so that the public would have the right to walk around the English coast for the first time was made following the Consultation on Proposals to improve access to the English coast (PDF 649KB) which closed on 11 September 2007.  A report summarising the responses is available to download (PDF 544KB).  The consultation followed Natural England’s report and advice to Government in February 2007:  'Improving coastal access: our advice to Government'.

An Impact Assessment setting out the estimated costs and benefits of the proposals has been published.  The Impact Assessment was developed following research (PDF 1MB) by an independent consultant.

Contact us

For more information on Defra and Natural England’s coastal access work and access to the English coast, please see:

For further enquiries, please telephone 0117 372 8897 or email

Page last modified: 19 November 2010
Page published: 23 October 2008