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Compensation for landowners if the public is granted right to roam

publication date: Sep 15, 2008
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Landowners must be compensated for any coastal land to which the public is granted a right to roam. That’s the view of Tim Olliff-Lee of national property agents, Strutt & Parker, who was speaking after the House of Commons’ committee for environment, food and rural affairs published its report on the Coastal Access Provisions of the Draft Marine Bill. The report not only recommended that compensation should be paid – potentially to thousands of landowners, farmers and businesses - but also that an independent appeals process be introduced too. The absence of an appeals process was described as a “fundamental weakness” in the committee’s report.

 “We’re delighted and very encouraged to see both recommendations in the committee’s report,” says Mr Olliff-Lee: “They are both eminently sensible and practical suggestions which show that the committee, unlike Natural England, really have listened to the representations that were made to them and learned from the experiences of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which granted the public a right of access to land designated as “open country”."

“If the public are now to be granted access to coastal land too then it seems common sense that the principle of an appeal process that eventually worked pretty successfully for the CROW Act must now be incorporated in a revised version of the Marine Bill.” 

The Draft Marine Bill, which was published by the Government in April, outlined plans for the public to have a right of access to a 2,500 mile coastal path running right around the coast of England. But it did not contain proposals for compensation to be paid or for landowners to have a right of appeal against the decision to designate their land, either as part of the path itself or of the so-called “spreading room” – a wider strip designed to allow the public to spread out and play, rest and picnic - that might surround it. Nor did the Outline Scheme published soon after by Natural England, the public body that will be responsible for creating and maintaining the path. 

“I hope the Government will pay serious heed to the committee’s report and move quickly to incorporate their recommendations, either in a revised Marine Bill or in a new scheme from Natural England.” 

Compensation payments to farmers, Mr Olliff-Lee believes, would be relatively modest. He thinks the biggest pay-outs would go to coastal leisure businesses, such as caravan parks, golf clubs and the owners of private beaches, many of whom will have strong cases for arguing that they face not only a loss of annual income if the coastal path comes across their land but a permanent reduction in the capital value of that land too. 

“But if we learned one thing from the CROW Act, it was that the representations made in the early stages were often overlooked, resulting in over 3,000 landowners having to appeal against having their land designated as “open country” under the CROW Act. In the huge majority of cases that we handled, the landowners successfully avoided having their land designated. Coastal landowners must have the same right to appeal.”