COASTAL ACCESS, HERITAGE ASSET SCORING
NorfolkCounty Council, UK, working with Natural England.
WHO WAS MEANT TO DO IT?
Historic Environment Service, Norfolk County Council.
WHAT DID THEY DO?
A spreadsheet was created, as was a GIS dataset of mapped historical features, which was subsequently used by Natural England when ‘walking the course’ with landowners of a new stretch of approximately 40km of Coastal Access.
Coastal Access is included in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, which aims to improve public access to, and the enjoyment of, the English Coastline by creating clear and consistent public rights along the English coast for most types of open-air recreation on foot. It allows existing coastal access to be secured and improved, and new access to be created in coastal places where it did not already exist. Norfolk County Council is working closely with Natural England as one of five initial areas in the country for this new all-England National Trail. Norfolk was selected as a national pilot because of climate change and the dynamic nature of the Norfolk coast.
HOW DID THEY DO IT?
The Norfolk Historic Environment Record (NHER) is a digital database which catalogues and maps all of the known archaeological remains and historic buildings in the county. A spatial data search was applied to this data using the outline of the proposed coast path. This returned about 600 known heritage assets which lie within the proposed corridor. These records were examined in turn for relevance to the project’s aims of identifying assets which are of interest to and/or vulnerable to the attentions of the public.
This sift revealed 57 relevant heritage assets and details of each of these were entered into a spreadsheet, recording grid reference, feature name, HER number, statutory designation (listed building, scheduled monument, etc), feature size, monument type, the period from which it dates, its form (e.g. cropmark or earthwork) and any useful location information or obvious characteristics e.g. rectangular earthwork of medieval moated site.
Each feature was given a basic rating of its ‘importance’, reflecting factors such as type and rarity. Importance was inputted either as ‘National’ or ‘Regional/Local’.
Each feature was also scored for ‘Sensitivity to access’, using colour coding:
- red (access on foot at any level would cause unacceptable damage to the asset),
- amber (access on foot may cause damage to the asset in part or as a whole)
- green (access on foot at any level is unlikely to cause any damage to the asset).
Additional information about the condition and/or vulnerability of the feature was also included.
HOW MANY PARTICIPATED?
This will not be known until this section of All-England National Trail is complete and open to the public in 2014.
DID IT WORK?
The historical data provided by the GIS dataset and accompanying spreadsheets was used by Natural England and formed part of the pivotal background information which helped to inform the choice of preferred route. Key issues, pivotal points and opportunities for the stretch were considered, including the Shoreline Management Plan, landscape, historical environment and sensitive features. Issues likely to be have an impact on Coastal Access were loaded to Trimble, the hand held GPS unit, these issues including sensitive areas to avoid and areas where access might be needed for heritage management.
The area chosen for heritage evaluation was not just the line of the trail, but extended a few kilometres inland. This is because the new All-England National Trail allows flexibility for future realignment due to erosion on this dynamic coast. Coastal Access also allows scope to include ‘spreading room’ landward of the trail, a new approach in England. Carrying out this research in advance created the opportunity to identify potential heritage sites where spreading room might apply.
WAS IT SUCCESSFUL?
The use of the historical GIS dataset for pivotal background information provided the balance between usage of a new coastal trail and potential damage to sensitive heritage sites, and helped inform the choice of the preferred route whilst on site ‘walking the course’ with landowners, prior to the trail being captured on GPS. Potentially threatened heritage locations were avoided whilst, at the same time, the potential to raise the profile of others was noted. This will help to plan how to increase the enjoyment of visitors to the area.
Landowner consultation involved approximately 200 people. It is too early to fully evaluate the approach but it has already informed this first phase of the consultation.
This first stretch is of one of only five national pilots testing a new approach. The experience gained and lessons learnt will feed into future work and may indeed inform the roll-out of Coastal Access nationally.
The process and results will help to inform planning associated with:
- local community significance for heritage and sensitive areas
- likely impacts/possible solutions and priorities
- infrastructure (car parks, toilets, etc.)
- public transport (buses from specific areas of population)
- involving business sector (tourism)
- highway concerns (managing parking, passing places on narrow roads, etc.)
Areas of relevance to increasing community activity and involvement include:
- activities around linking heritage sites to the coast – ie, walk xxxkm of additional potential for activity, recreation and enjoyment of the countryside
- heritage link - potential between lighthouses on new national trail on previous private land
- length of new National Trail, of which much is new public access
- creating missing links between Public Rights of Way and other access
- potential new public access to historic features
- new opportunity for involvement of local communities from outset, ie, new trail, new community engagement; interpretation (schools?), events, practical management, community project, ie., project linking coastguard stations/lighthouses/shipwrecks, or ‘wild coast’ raising awareness of sensitive areas