Emma recently tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons calling on the Government to take action to complete the English Coastal Path. Today Emma took her case directly to the Minister at Environment Questions, asking him to confirm that the path would go ahead.
Emma asked the Minister Dan Rogerson:
“At a cost of £1 per metre the coast path represents excellent value for money. However, the Minister’s predecessor showed little enthusiasm for the project, leading to fears it will be shelved. Will the Minister confirm that the coastal path budget will be protected during deliberations over his department’s future spending, and finally give a date for its completion?”
Unfortunately the Minister did not confirm a timetable for the path, saying that although coastal access was something that “everyone in the House would like to see”, that it was a time of “restricted resources”.
The Minister’s reply will add to concerns that the Government is looking to kick this project in to the long grass. Although the path was announced in 2009, so far only 20 miles have been completed, and the previous Minister responsible for the issue, Richard Benyon MP, said in June that a number of the department’s projects were “up for grabs” and described the path as “a sledgehammer to miss a nut”.
Emma’s EDM called on the Government to recognise the important economic contribution the coast makes to the tourist economy, and has so far been supported by 38 MPs from all major parties.
Commenting on the Minister’s answer after Environment Questions, Emma said:
“I am disappointed that the Minister was unable to reaffirm the Government’s support for this project. He claimed that his department’s resources are stretched, but the fact is that the path was costed at just £5m over the entire ten year project, a fantastic investment when you consider that the similar Wales Coastal Path brought £16m to the Welsh economy in its first year alone.
“I hope that the new Minister will take the opportunity to look at this issue again and will recognise the opportunity this project presents for unlocking the economic potential of our coastline.”