Fears public inquiry could pressurise Coast to Coast progress

The current A19 crossing of the Coast to Coast trail. Picture: LDRS.

The developers of a new national Coast to Coast trail pushed forward by Rishi Sunak have expressed concerns over the route’s progress before its scheduled opening in October 2025.

A meeting of the North Yorkshire Local Access Forum was told while an update on a solution to provide a safe crossing of the A19 dual carriageway was expected imminently from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, objections to other changes to the existing route could cause significant delays.

Natural England, which has been tasked by the Government with upgrading the Coast to Coast route into a national trail, revealed last September that a feasibility study had concluded the cheapest option to cross the major A-road was a £3m footbridge.

The body said a farm traffic and bridleway bridge at the existing crossing near Ingleby Arncliffe would be likely to cost the taxpayer some £22m and neither option would be completed before the national trail was launched so bridges to the north and south of the traditional road crossing were being considered as temporary measures.

A meeting of the forum at County Hall on Wednesday was told the route from Richmond to Ingleby Arncliffe was nearly 20 miles and those following Alfred Wainwright’s route would not want to have to walk miles further to the north or south to an existing bridge.

One forum member said: “Doing the diversion in reality is not going to reflect what people do on the ground.”

The meeting heard those in charge of developing the route were aware of the risk of altering the route was “people taking their chances” crossing the A19 dual carriageway at the traditional point.

Officers told the meeting work was progressing over developing a Coast to Coast cycling and horse riding route to complement the national trail.

Members heard there had been “positive engagement” with Cycling UK and the British Horse Society over identifying routes that would have “a much wider benefit” to a range of people, rather than “slavishly following the national trail”.

While the Coast to Coast route has been used for decades by about 4,000 people a year it has emerged some landowners have raised objections to proposed diversions of public rights of way, which if they are maintained would trigger a public inquiry.

The meeting was told those behind the scheme were negotiating with the landowners and were uncomfortable about creating a national trail on land that was not a designated public right of way.

Officers said even without an inquiry the timescale to get everything in place to launch the route as a national trail was already “very very tight”.

An officer stated: “Phase one is to get the route open, safe and useable on public rights of way. It’s more challenging than we anticipated, but we are making good progress.”

Practical work, the meeting heard, was being focused on making a section of the south bank of the River Swale in Richmond free of steps and styles to improve its accessibility for electric all-terrain mobility scooters, which can be hired nearby.