Natural England - England Coast Path – a step closer in the North East

England Coast Path – a step closer in the North East

17 December 2012

Natural England publishes report to the Secretary of State proposing improved public access to 55km of coast in the North East between North Gare in Hartlepool and South Bents in Sunderland.

Natural England has today (17 December) published its final proposals to improve public access along a 55km stretch of coast in the North East between North Gare in Hartlepool and South Bents in Sunderland.

This route, which will eventually form part of the England Coast Path, will traverse across part of England’s stunning historic coast including rugged cliffs jutting out into the North Sea. The path takes in Teesmouth National Nature Reserve and runs through Hartlepool’s historic Headland. Along the County Durham coast, the route passes the sites of four former coastal collieries and discovers the heart of Sunderland’s glass industry; illustrating the importance of the North East’s industrial and cultural heritage. It will provide greater access for local residents and visitors where they can walk alongside promenades, rest and picnic while admiring the view.

The report has now been submitted to the Secretary of State for consideration. Its publication marks the start of the eight week period during which representations and objections can be made.

Anyone can make representations to Natural England about the report, but owners and occupiers of affected land may make objections about the report on specified grounds, which will be considered by a Planning Inspector before the Secretary of State makes a final decision about the report.

All representations and objections must be received by Natural England no later than 5 p.m. on Monday 11 February 2013.

This is the first coastal access report in the North East and follows on from a public consultation held from May to August 2012 after extensive discussions with landowners, tenants and local organisations such as local authority archaeologists.

The report outlines key improvements to existing access along the North East coast between Hartlepool and Sunderland, with proposals:

  • to identify a clear and continuous way-marked walking route along this part of the coast, bringing sections of existing coastal footpath closer to the sea;
  • to allow the route to ‘roll back’ if the coastline erodes or slips, solving the long-standing difficulties of maintaining a continuous route along the coast; and
  • to secure statutory rights of public access to form a continuous coastal route, linking places together for the first time where people currently enjoy access by long tradition or with the landowner’s permission.

Adrian Vass, Natural England’s Area Manager for the North East, said: “The proposals published today are the result of 18 months of detailed work carried out in partnership with three Local Authorities, talking with landowners and many other interested parties, and we are extremely grateful for their effort and contribution. These proposals present an opportunity to improve access to a great stretch of the North East’s coastline. Before the Government decides how to proceed, we do want to make sure that everyone has had their say. So we hope that anyone who wants to make a representation or objection will do so over the next eight weeks.”

Niall Benson from Durham Heritage Coast Partnership said: “The proposed improvements to coastal access along this stretch will deliver great benefits to our local communities, in some cases reconnecting villages to the coast where access has become difficult for all sorts of reasons. Our natural environment will also benefit as the route will be clear and unambiguous, reducing unintentional trampling, which can be so damaging at certain times of the year. The Durham Heritage Coast Partnership hopes that everyone will support the proposals so we have the chance to enjoy it in the future.”

Cllr James Blackburn, the Portfolio Holder for City Services at Sunderland City Council, said: “We have enjoyed working with Natural England on the development of the new coastal access rights in Sunderland. When implemented they will restore access, which people have always enjoyed, to our spectacular coast. The roll back provisions are particularly welcome, enabling the path to move back in line with the cliff. We do however urge the public to exercise the new rights with sensible caution in relation to the movement of tides and cliff.”

Copies of the report can be viewed in council offices and libraries along the coast between North Gare and South Bents. The full report and all the forms and guidance on how to make a representation or objection within the next eight weeks are also available on Natural England’s website:


Notes to editors

1. Press office contacts:
a) Natural England
Michelle Hawkins, Press Officer / 0300 060 1109 /

b) Durham Heritage Coast Partnership
Niall Benson, Durham Heritage Coast Officer / 03000 268 130 /

c) Local Authorities
• Durham County Council: Vanessa Glover, Press Officer / 03000 268 070 /  
• Hartlepool Borough Council: Steve Hilton, Public Relations Officer / 01429 284 065
• Sunderland City Council:  Kevin Douglas, Media Officer /

2. The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 places a duty on the Secretary of State and Natural England to secure a long distance walking trail around the open coast of England, together with public access rights to a wider area of land along the way for people to enjoy.

The England Coast Path will be a new long distance National Trail that will eventually allow people to walk 4,500km around the whole of the English Coast. In addition to Cumbria, Natural England is also currently working to deliver coastal access in several other locations around the country:

  • Dorset
  • Kent
  • Norfolk
  • North East / Yorkshire and the Humber
  • Somerset
  • Cumbria – work to prepare proposals for the next stretch of the England Coast Path in Cumbria between Whitehaven and Silecroft started in April 2012.
  • The first stretch of coastal access was approved in Weymouth earlier this year, and was opened in time for people to view the sailing events for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

3.  About Natural England
Natural England is the government’s independent adviser on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.

  • We establish and care for England’s main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.
  • We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and advising widely on their conservation.
  • We run Environmental Stewardship and other green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland.
  • We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats.
  • We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them.

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