Agenda item

Discussion on the published coastal access reports for the stretches from Cremyll to Kingswear and Combe Martin to Marsland Mouth. To consider setting up a working group in order to respond to the proposals.


Links to the coastal access reports:




Richard Andrews and Jane Beech, Natural England, presented details from the Combe Martin to Marsland Mouth and Cremyll to Kingswear reports for the England Coast Path, currently out for consultation.  The presentations focussed on proposals for estuaries, significant realignments and exclusions/restrictions.  Much of the coast falls under designations such as Special Areas of Conservation, Marine Coastal Zones, Scheduled Monuments, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Heritage Coast, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Biosphere Reserve.


The England Coast Path will differ from the South West Coast Path in providing coastal margin land; land between the trail and the mean low margin which the public can use at their own risk.


Each stretch had now been divided into individual reports allowing work to commence on a report length if no objections had been received.  Any objections received by the Secretary of State will have to be determined before work on that report route can start.


Earlier discussions and consultations with the South West Coast Path Association, Devon County Council, the Ramblers, the Disabled Ramblers, the Devon Countryside Access Forum and others had informed the published reports.


With estuaries, Natural England had discretion to stop at the estuarine limit or at the first pedestrian crossing point.


Combe Martin to Marsland Mouth


Richard Andrew explained that, in summary, this included one estuary; one direction to exclude access; one direction to restrict access; sixteen realignments from the current South West Coast Path route and 1.4km taken off-road (3.6km if the road section of the ‘American Road’ is included).


For the Taw and Torridge estuary it was proposed to align the route to the first pedestrian crossings, the Taw Bridge (Barnstaple) and Bideford Long Bridge, using the existing SWCP/ Tarka Trail.  This would provide a continuous route around the estuary.


Realignments were proposed for:


a)    Chesil Cliff, Croyde, to take 80m of path off road.

b)    Braunton Burrows and Horsey Island, to take approximately 500m off-road at Saunton.  The trail will be aligned seaward, taking the trail off 5.3 km of the ‘inland’ American road and path.  The existing public right of way along the American road would still be available.  At Horsey Island, discussions had taken place with the Devon County Council archaeological team about stone stiles.  Some would be removed to improve access.  Where these were listed, a suitable gate would be erected alongside to British Standard 5709: Gaps, gates and stiles (2018).

c)     Scheduled monuments at Gallantry Bower and Embury Beacon.  The proposal is to align the trail to protect scheduled monuments and provide information boards to advise walkers of the site sensitivity.  A question was asked about whether public rights of way would be realigned but currently these would remain as on the Definitive Map.

d)    East-the-Water.  Aligning the trail on nearby pavements will take the trail out of the railway cutting and avoid steps and a road crossing.

e)    Dyer’s Lookout.  The current route is badly eroded and the proposal is to align the trail inland of the current SWCP route.

f)      Watertown, Appledore.  Aligning the trail on the edge of the field and foreshore will avoid the current low tide (foreshore) and high tide (road) route.  The route would protect high tide roosts.


A couple of directions were proposed to deal with high tide roosts, issues with dogs and nesting birds, and safety concerns around the mud flats and salt marshes.


A section 25A direction to exclude people from salt marsh and flats was proposed.  This would not stop people with existing historic rights having access.  This included a RSPB reserve.


A section 26(3)(a) long term dog restriction for Home Farm Marsh, run by the Gaia Trust, was proposed.  Notices would be erected in key places.  Home Farm was accessible for mobility scooters. 


It was confirmed that monitoring of restrictions would take place by the Gaia Trust at Home Farm and by the Taw/Torridge Estuary Partnership and the RSPB on the estuary.  Natural England had funded work on high tide roosts.  


A large development was planned at Yelland Quay and Natural England will be consulted on nature conservation and the coastal path.


It was confirmed that there would be signs for both the SWCP and England Coast Path.  The importance of continued signing into towns was raised as vital for the economy.


The Treasury would be funding the England Coast Path.  Advantage had been taken of Rural Development Programme for England funding from the European Union whilst this had been available.


As part of the coastal path, an additional 1km stretch of route at Westward Ho! would be improved to allow access by mobility scooters.


Cremyll to Kingswear


Jane Beech outlined the position on the Cremyll to Kingswear stretch.  The Plymouth area was included in the reports but was outside the Devon Countryside Access Forum area.


Seven estuaries were included, including the Tamar and Plym in the Plymouth area, plus five exclusions and ten realignments from the SWCP totalling 32 km (including) and 3km (excluding) alternative and temporary routes.


Proposals for the estuaries were as follows:


River Yealm

Option 3, aligning the route to follow the existing SWCP via a seasonal ferry, had been proposed.  This would have an alternative route when the ferry was not running, using existing highways, public rights of way and an existing permissive route to extend to the first pedestrian crossing point. 


Other options considered were; option 1, aligning the trail around the estuary to the first pedestrian crossing points at Wapplewell, Brixton and Yealmpton and, option 2, aligning the route to follow the existing SWCP route via the seasonal ferry. Option 1 would add 22.5 km to the path as gardens and historic parkland were excepted land. The alternatives were also constrained due to the convoluted nature of the estuary and limited views in dense woodland.  The benefits of the other options would not justify substantial additional cost.


It was noted that the former route of the old railway line had not been included as an aspiration/option.  Natural England said it would have been hugely costly to replace the bridge.


River Erme

There were two options and option one had been selected. Option one would align to the existing SWCP across the estuary by fording at low tide between the two slipways at Mothecombe and Wonwell. It was acknowledged that this was only available for an hour either side of low tide and some users would not feel able to cross. Although there was an old footbridge farther up the estuary, the adjacent land was very marshy.


Option 1, along the estuary to the first crossing point on the A379 at Sequer’s Bridge, had been considered.  This route would have to avoid historic parkland (excepted land) and other challenges such as topography and land use of the estuary margins; nature conservation and land management interests; and pedestrian use of the A379. 


River Avon

There were four options and option four had been proposed.  This followed the existing SWCP route via an improved full-time ferry service between Cockleridge Ham and Bantham.  Natural England would review the trail alignment and prepare a variation report if the ferry became less suitable.  An alternative route, along the Avon Valley Walk, would be available when the ferry is not in service.


The other options considered were option 1, an estuary trail to the first crossing point at Aveton Gifford using the Avon Valley Walk.  This would be away from the estuary with significant coastal margin.  Option 2 would create a new estuary trail to Aveton Gifford.  Option 3 was as option 4 but without the alternative route.


Kingsbridge Estuary

There were two options and option one, the existing SWCP route, had been proposed as there was a regular year-round ferry taking walkers between Salcombe and East Portlemouth.  Option 2 would take walkers inland to the pedestrian crossing at Kingsbridge but the length of the estuary with all its inlets, 39 km, would make a waterside route challenging and expensive.  There was also excepted land along the shoreline.


River Dart

Of the two options, option one following the existing SWCP route was proposed.  The regular year-round ferry takes walkers between Dartmouth and Kingswear.  Again, a waterside route was seen as inordinately expensive as option 2, to the crossing point at Totnes, would add 46 km and there was excepted land along the shoreline.


A number of key realignments within the Devon County Council highway authority area were suggested in the reports.


1.     Mothecombe Beach.  The current route is cut-off at high tide and for two hours either side.  The proposal is to align the route along the seawall and include new steps.  The possibility of a ramp was raised but Natural England said this was not possible and it was noted that the onward route was challenging.

2.     Hallsands and Beesands.  The SWCP route had been affected by erosion of the road following storms.  The new coastal path route would follow the reinstated road, with potential to move back.  At Beesands a route had been negotiated through the corner of a field.

3.     Torcross.  The SWCP was closed in 2018 due to storm damage and a temporary closure was in place.  The diversion is currently along a narrow road and includes steps.  The plan is to repair and build a new stone wall to allow reinstatement of the path along its original route.

4.     Slapton Ley.  Again, the route of the SWCP was affected by storms in March 2018.  Natural England worked with the County Council and stakeholders to reinstate the path to the landward side of the new section of the A379.  This path would be a more sustainable route should there be further erosion of the shingle ridge and road.

5.     Strete.  Consideration was given to aligning the trail to the seaward side of the A379 and Strete.  However, buildings and gardens are adjacent to the cliff and there is strong community support for the route to continue through the village.  There have been recent improvements to trail infrastructure and a reduction in village speed limits.

6.     Stoke Fleming.  Discussions with landowners have not enabled a route adjacent to the coastline to be proposed due to areas of excepted land (buildings, gardens and curtilage).  The owners did not wish to voluntarily dedicate a route.  The option is for a trail following a new seaward alignment between Church Road, in the centre of Stoke Fleming, and Redlap Lane west of Warren Point, via the public footpath and fields along Shady Lane.


A few restrictions have been applied, some to conform to other relevant legislation.


o    Carswell Estate.  A year-round total exclusion due to game birds and shooting is proposed.

o    Mothecombe Beach.  A seasonal dog ban would be put in place.

o    Burgh Island.  A total year-round exclusion is proposed due to land management and commercial activity.

o    Blackpool Sands.  A dog ban would be put in place.


Natural England was asked whether there was scope to subsidise ferries and the reply was that there may be incentives to bolster ferries.  Natural England allocates money for the maintenance of the SWCP, which includes 100% of the costs to subsidise the ferries and 75% towards trail maintenance.  One ferry had been changed to reflect land management interests.  Natural England suggested that improvements could be included in representations made by the DCAF.


Gordon Guest had been asked to look at accessible sections by the Disabled Ramblers.


A working group was proposed to consider a response and Sue Pudduck, Tino Savvas, Gordon Guest, Bryan Smith, and Sarah Slade expressed interest.


Action:  Forum Officer to circulate potential dates to all members. 


There was an eight-week period to make representations.  Landowners could make objections.  Representations will be compiled into a written report on which the Minister would make decisions.  The Planning Inspectorate would deal with objections before presenting a report to the Minister.  After final decisions had been made, Natural England would work with the local authority to open the stretches of England Coast Path.