Oooooh, Dear

Some people really do have problems with this concept of private property, don\’t they? The Times leader starts with:

The British coastline would be a magnificent gift to the public.

Eh? Rather missing the point that in order to make this gift the authorities will have to steal private property:

News that private gardens may form part of a proposed 2,500-mile coastal path around England was disclosed to MPs last week by Natural England, the Government’s landscape advisers.

Paul Johnson, the organisation’s coastal access adviser, made clear that the existing policy that exempts parks and gardens from new walking rights should be lifted. He fears that unless the coastal path goes through some private gardens or parkland then many parts of the coast will remain out of bounds to the public.

His remarks have shocked landowners and farmers, who had believed that private land was sacrosanct. The adage that an Englishman’s home is his castle was given legal force in the Countryside Rights of Way Act, which opened up the right to roam on mountain, moor, heathland and down. Natural England, however, is now suggesting that the safeguard be scrapped.

MPs are scrutinising the draft Marine Bill, which aims to open beaches, inlets and cliff tops so that walkers can enjoy spectacular views of the shore. The Government has allocated £50 million over the next ten years to create a coastal trail, but no cash has been earmarked to compensate landowners affected by the plan.

He disclosed that Natural England had identified 4,300 private houses next to the sea and 700 estates and parks where access may be necessary.

The sanctity of private property is the most basic fundamental of a well functioning economy. If people (yes, even the government) can simply come along and take your property as they wish then the entire system crumbles.

There\’s no difference in either logic or morals between this and Mugabe\’s land grabs in Zimbabwe: and look how well that has worked.

As so often, the other side of the English Civil War does this rather better:

…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

As a result of their starting again after that Civil War they worked out and put onto paper the exact things that the State may not do to us. Stealing our property without compensation being one of them.

Whether or not the public desires access to the coastline is one thing: perhaps they do but in order to achieve that "gift" that same public had better be prepared to pay for it. Simply declaring that random strangers may walk through people\’s gardens is theft.

17 thoughts on “Oooooh, Dear”

  1. “Whether or not the public desires access to the coastline is one thing…”

    I suspect the real ‘public’ couldn’t give a toss.

    Let’s not dignify hungry single-issue pressure groups like the Ramblers Association with the title of ‘the public’.

  2. Article 1 of the ECHR has something to say on this too.

    “Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.”

    Public interest doesn’t mean “members of the public are interested in walking across your garden.”

  3. “As a result of their starting again after that Civil War they worked out and put onto paper the exact things that the State may not do to us. Stealing our property without compensation being one of them.’

    Whether or not the public desires access to the coastline is one thing: perhaps they do but in order to achieve that “gift” that same public had better be prepared to pay for it. Simply declaring that random strangers may walk through people’s gardens is theft.”

    I don’t know about other states, but in California, beaches are public property below the mean high tide line. Above that line, it’s private property and trespassers can be prosecuted.

    Access must be made available to the public and the system works reasonably well except in high-density areas like Malibu, where private property owners and nature lovers have their tussles, mostly about access.

    http://www.coastwatcher.org/C41503799/E1733668287/index.html

    Your ramblers here seem to be as politically motivated as they are aggressive, especially considering that they contribute nothing to the upkeep of the rights of way and take no responsibility for the sometimes considerable damage resulting from their presence – talk to farmers about that!

    Tim adds: Not sure, but I think the English difference is only that it’s low tide line.

  4. Kaytie: [ECHR]”No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.”

    Public interest doesn’t mean “members of the public are interested in walking across your garden.”

    What does “public interest” mean, then? Whenever it’s invoked in a discussion, it seems to have the intended effect of silencing any criticism based on individual rights, but it’s entirely unclear what it means, or how we can test a given policy to determine whether it is “in the public interest” or not. Any attempt to explain the public interest by reference to some objective utilitarian scale of happiness-inducement will always be arbitrary, and reflect merely the valuations of the person in charge of the metric.

    Tim: [quoting the Bill of Rights] “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    “Just compensation” is another, entirely meaningless phrase. The only just price for a good or service is that which its legitimate owner voluntarily accepts, and to think otherwise logically compels one to accept claims of a “just wage” &c. To confiscate property and reimburse its owner with a ‘just’ settlement is indulging in interpersonal comparisons of utility. There’s little wonder that this clause has been eroded and had so little success in actually protecting private property.

  5. “entirely meaningless phrase”

    No, they aren’t meaningless. They give the courts power to rule, and they have done so. The rulings set precedents, and it’s clear from these that the Government can’t deprive people of their property without compensation.

  6. “Not sure, but I think the English difference is only that it’s low tide line.”

    No, that would mean the public has access only to beach actually under water , so I looked it up, and it seems you have three different property law regimes: English, Scottish and Udal law, and the term foreshore has a very specific legal meaning in each, though the ‘intertidal zone’ – the area between the mean low and mean high tide lines – is what’s generally understood to be public property. Sand that gets wet, in other words, as opposed to sand that remains dry.

    And in the US the whole issue has been under discussion for more than a decade,

    http://www.idigclintonbeaches.org/OLR_pubbeach.htm

    as beaches have changed from places where one harvested valuable fish or shellfish and flotsam or jetsam, to places where one lies in the sun and plays volleyball – for which dry sand is desirable.

    One could argue that the original legislation’s raison d’etre – public use and enjoyment of the foreshore – is no longer being fulfilled as the public’s needs have changed.

    Obviously a complicated area of the law in both the US and the UK!

  7. “No, they aren’t meaningless. They give the courts power to rule, and they have done so. The rulings set precedents, and it’s clear from these that the Government can’t deprive people of their property without compensation.”

    I was referring to the US Bill of Rights, which I quoted from Tim’s post, not this particular instance.

    Nonetheless, I don’t doubt that governments compensate the holder of a piece of property, but they do so unjustly. There is no such thing as just compensation, except what it would be voluntarily given up for. If you offer that, then there’s no reason for the laws concerning compulsory purchase (or, what is equivalent, compulsory access) to exist in the first place. On the other hand, if you dictate what price I must accept, you’re pretending to find some objectively “just” price for my property. Since no such price exists, “just compensation” is meaningless rhetoric, as is “public interest.”

  8. The sanctity of private property is the most basic fundamental of a well functioning economy.

    This is demonstrably not true: China’s economic growth over the last quarter-century is better than any other major economy has ever done, yet China doesn’t treat private property as sacrosanct.

  9. Once again, you guys are paying the price for rejecting the Roman Catholic Church.
    She protects rights to private property.
    Your new “church” doesn’t.

  10. Little Black Sambo

    There was a suggestion, when they were attempting to ban foxhunting, that rambler-hunting would be an acceptable substitute. I wonder what progress has been made with that. I know that foxhunting goes on as before, but where foxes are scarce, and for the sake of a little variety, rambler-hunting might have much to commend it. Perhaps a hunt specializing in that sport would be better to have something more like wolfhounds.

  11. This had an airing quite a number of months ago. Rule of law, private property, individual rights, any vestige of any sort of principle, forget it. It’s like everything else this lot touches. It will be forced through, irrespective of what anyone says, any valid argument put forward, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever to its real benefits, (if they need evidence, they will get it made up) because they believe it’s ‘right’.

  12. So Much For Subtlety

    Cabalamat – “This is demonstrably not true: China’s economic growth over the last quarter-century is better than any other major economy has ever done, yet China doesn’t treat private property as sacrosanct.”

    What is happening in China is odd. China’s economic growth has not been as high as South Korea’s from 1965 or so to 1980 or so by the way. However there is no denying that China’s growth began with the de facto acceptance of property right for China’s farmers. They also more or less guarantee the property rights of the powerful. If you invest in China they used ot give you as much land as you needed or wanted. Small fry get screwed still, but the powerful have more or less guaranteed property rights. Not a good system really.

  13. “Perhaps a hunt specializing in that sport would be better to have something more like wolfhounds.”

    Well, the police and RSPCA say they confiscate a lot of pitbulls…

  14. “Once again, you guys are paying the price for rejecting the Roman Catholic Church.
    She protects rights to private property.” Always good to know that when the bastards have burnt you to death that your propery rights are nonetheless secure.

  15. “Once again, you guys are paying the price for rejecting the Roman Catholic Church.”

    Hey, given the choice between letting yobs walk on my beachfront property and joining the Catholic Church, I’d take yobs any day.

    N.B. Given the amount of property the church owns, I’m not surprised property rights are high up on their list of priorities, just under making sure you remember they also own your soul.

  16. Erbolat Qasymzhomartbayev

    Nimbyism.

    I have no doubt that these same folks desperately defending their “Private Property” would think nothing of any plan to extend some road or motorway through else’s someones “Private Property” if it suited their convenience. I see no fundamental difference in principle and in practice what would you prefer; the occasional Rambler or the M25?

    The assertion that money has not been put aside to fund compensation is not the same as saying that it will not be paid. It is more likely that it is difficult to quantify and in any case the bill will probably land on the doormats of local councils whose constituents will benefit economically from the added utility and additional tourism. Most of the land that we are talking about here has limited utility and I am sure will be compensated at a fair price if the landowner insists. A huge majority of it would be farm estate. Farmers are pretty good maintaining rights of way and I think few would really object. Of the inevitable resentful minority they need to accept that they can’t on the one hand present themselves as faithful Stewards of our natural resurces expecting the benefits of subsidy that come with that status and on the other hand not allow access to it.

    The two or three feet of path hugging the cliffside or beach, which is what most coastal paths actually consist of, is rarely of consequence and is unlikely to have been really productive to the farmers on whose land it runs. If it’s arable then you can’t plough it, if you keep livestock it’s all fenced off in case your animals lose their footing.

    I am sure that nobody and definitely not Ramblers, want to see someone’s back gardens converted into a National Trail against their will so that they will have strangers tramping past their patio as they eat breakfast which is the absurd notion that you’re trying to construct.

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