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Christchurch MP Sir Chris Chope attacks decision on England Coast Path

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CHRISTCHURCH MP Sir Chris Chope has criticised a recent decision to run Dorset’s first ever National Trail through the centre of the town rather than using the ferry at Mudeford.

The environment secretary, George Eustice, has approved plans to extend a portion of the England Coast Path from Kimmeridge to Studland eastwards to Highcliffe, with work to prepare the route set to start soon.

However, Sir Chris said the decision to take the path through Christchurch town went against the recommendation of the planning inspector who, at a public inquiry into the matter, had advised the path make use of the ferry service.

Mudeford ferry (57657998)
Mudeford ferry (57657998)

“Now, arbitrarily and without any reasoning, that recommendation has been overruled by the minister,” he told the A&T.

“It doesn’t make sense – this is a coastal path. Are you really going to want to go two or three miles inland?”

Sir Chris questioned junior environment minister Rebecca Pow over the matter in the Commons. She said that due to the seasonality of the ferry service, a route dependant upon it would not be suitable.

She went on: “Moreover, the route around Christchurch harbour will exclusively use existing paths and deliver significant recreational value.

“Where objections to the Christchurch harbour route were submitted, the route will follow a public right of way and the land falling within the coastal margin is existing common land.

Sir Christopher Chope
Sir Christopher Chope

“Therefore, there will be no material change as a result of the establishment of the England Coast Path.”

She concluded: “Overall, following careful consideration, the secretary of state determined that a route around Christchurch harbour is consistent with the coastal access duty in the 2009 Act, which sets out the desirability of minimising interruptions to the route, and that the proposed route also follows the approach described in Natural England’s approved Coastal Access Scheme.”

Speaking afterwards, Sir Chris said concerns over the seasonality of the ferry were nonsensical given that, if the service was not running, “common sense” would prevail and users would simply take an alternative route.

“If you can’t use the quickest route, which at this time of year is through Mudeford, you simply take another,” he said.

Once established, the coastal path will be managed as part of the family of National Trails.

There are further sections to be agreed from Highcliffe to Hythe.

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