The proposed stretch had been controversial locally for not making use of an intermittent ferry service, but instead routing the main path around Christchurch harbour, which included making use of an existing right of way on the quayside, adjacent to residential homes. That alignment created “coastal margin” – giving rights to the public to use private land for what is referred to as ‘spreading room’. While the land was already registered common, it abutted residential premises – and was used in connection with them – so was “excepted land” under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
The claimant, a local resident, complained that the Secretary of State misunderstood the existing position and/or failed to give legally adequate reasons for the decision. The Secretary of State conceded that the reasoning was legally inadequate.
The legal framework for the creation of the ECP under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 is novel and relatively complex. It seeks to strike a balance between the public interest in creating a new long-distance route around the English coast and the private interest of landowners over whose land the route is created (without financial compensation). This matter highlights the importance of that balance being fairly struck, and properly reasoned.
Ned Westaway acted for the claimant, Mr Mark Facer, instructed by Kate Stewart of Lester Aldridge LLP