125 mile coastal path plan aims to link Morecambe Bay and Lancaster to national route

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Plans to create 125 miles of coastal path in England will include new routes through Lancaster, Morecambe, Heysham, Silverdale and Glasson Dock.

Natural England’s plans to improve access to the Lancashire and Cumbria coast cover a 125 mile stretch of coastline between Silecroft in Cumbria and Cleveleys in Lancashire, via Morecambe Bay and the River Lune.

RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss, Silverdale

RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss, Silverdale

Members of the public and stakeholders are invited to have their say on the proposals over the next eight weeks.

The route covers the final 71 miles of the England Coast Path to be published in Cumbria and the first 54 miles of the Lancashire coast.

The plans include 27 miles of new path, where people could not previously access the coast.

In Lancashire, the proposed trail continues around the dramatic limestone cliffs and headlands south of Silverdale, passing close to Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay RSPB reserves, which are rich in wildlife including otters, bearded tits, marsh harriers, egrets and red deer.

RSPB Nature Reserve Leighton Moss Feature. Reed beds at Leigton Moss.

RSPB Nature Reserve Leighton Moss Feature. Reed beds at Leigton Moss.

The proposed Lancashire stretch also includes the promenade through Morecambe, and takes in the ancient chapel and carved graves of St Patrick’s at Heysham Head National Trust site.

A circuit of the Lune Estuary will connect Lancaster with the historic ports of Sunderland Point and Glasson Dock, and the Wyre ferry links Knott End to Fleetwood and Cleveleys.

The plans cover the whole of Morecambe Bay, renowned and protected for its internationally important birdlife, which enjoy the UK’s largest expanse of intertidal muds and salt marshes.

European and UK protected sites, National Nature Reserves (NNRs), ancient woodlands, wetlands and limestone pavement also feature along the route.

Nature conservation experts have been consulted in order to ensure the path does not have an impact on the internationally important birdlife of Morecambe Bay.

In Cumbria, the planned route between Silecroft and Silverdale includes parts of the Lake District National Park and World Heritage Site, circuits the impressive lagoon at Hodbarrow and the sand dunes at Sandscale Haws, and introduces significant new access around the Furness and Cartmel peninsulas and the Leven estuary.

There is now a period of eight weeks for the public to have their say on the proposals. If approved, this route will become part of the England Coast Path – the 2,700 mile long distance walking route and England’s newest National Trail currently being developed around the entire English coast by Natural England.

Chris Kaighin, Natural England’s Area Manager for Cumbria, said: “The proposed route showcases the Cumbria and Lancashire coastline, from celebrating our industrial heritage at Barrow-in-Furness, to capturing local beauty spots such as the spectacular viewpoint of Humphrey Head near Grange-over-Sands.

St. Peter's Church, Heysham

St. Peter's Church, Heysham

“We thank everyone for their time and input so far to help share the proposals. Over the next eight weeks, we are inviting all organisations, farmers, local residents, visitors and businesses to have their say on our proposals. All the responses will be taken into account and we look forward to hearing people’s views.”

The planned route in Cumbria also passes through the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), including Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Grubbins Wood reserve, one of the many beautiful coastal woodlands on the route.

Lucy Barron, Arnside & Silverdale AONB manager, said: “We welcome the publication of the proposed route of the England Coast Path through Arnside & Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and encourage people to put forward their views as part of the public consultation.

“The coast path will enable visitors to enjoy a new perspective of this stunning area - the coast boasts exceptional views across Morecambe Bay and an unrivalled diversity of different landscapes in a small area: limestone grasslands and clifftops, the Victorian seafront village of Arnside, woodlands, and some of the finest sunsets in the country.”

Figures released by Natural England last month revealed the huge popularity of England’s coastal paths with 29.1 million walking trips made over a six-month period, boosting local economies and bringing health and wellbeing benefits to visitors. The data revealed that visits boosted the economy by £350 million in 2017, with 97% of people feeling refreshed and revitalised as a result of their visit.

In Cumbria, work to prepare the Whitehaven to Silecroft and Walney Island stretches for opening should be complete later this year, joining the Allonby to Whitehaven stretch which was opened in 2014.

The stone graves at Heysham Head are one of the last sites to visit on the app.

The stone graves at Heysham Head are one of the last sites to visit on the app.

Anyone can make representations to Natural England about the report during the eight week period. Owners and occupiers of affected land can 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.

All representations and objections must be received by Natural England no later than midnight on 4 March 2020. Copies of the reports can be viewed at Millom, Askam-in-Furness, Barrow-in-Furness, Ulverston, Grange-over-Sands and Knott End libraries; the Arnside and Silverdale AONB Offices; and the Morecambe, Lancaster and Fleetwood Visitor Information Centres.

The full reports and all the forms and guidance on how to make a representation or objection within the next eight weeks are also available at: http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/england-coast-path-in-the-north-west-of-england