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Public Footpaths: River Thames

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 17 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to extend the Thames Path National Trail from Woolwich up to the Thames Estuary. (242570)

At present there are no plans to formally extend the Thames Path National Trail from its end point at the Thames Barrier. However, the provision of a long distance footpath on either side of the Thames from the Thames Barrier to Southend in Essex and Sheppey in Kent is a key ambition of the Thames Gateway Parklands Vision launched by Communities and Local Government (CLG) in October of this year. A scoping study was launched at the Thames Gateway Forum by CLG to help progress the initiative, outlining the feasibility and estimated costs of approx. £37 million. As yet there is no financial commitment for this Thames Gateway Parklands project, but its potential contribution to the Thames Gateway as the UK's first Eco Region is recognised.

The powers to enable the creation of a right of access to the coast of England set out in the Marine and Coastal Access Bill currently before Parliament, could be used up to the first pedestrian crossing point on the Thames, subject to consideration of a number of criteria laid out in the Bill. The Bill places a requirement on Natural England to determine the appropriate approach to the Thames Estuary in consultation with land owners and stakeholders as set out in a statutory scheme for England approved by the Secretary of State. Natural England has published a draft of this scheme on their website and the Thames is used as one of the examples in this to illustrate the proposed approach to estuaries.