TOURISTS could struggle to reach one of Dorset’s world-famous landmarks this summer.
The steps to Durdle Door beach, which have crumbled in extreme weather conditions, will not be rebuilt for the summer 2013 season, Lulworth Estate chief James Weld said.
Mr Weld hit out at a change in law that means the estate is prevented from managing and maintaining access to the beaches at Lulworth.
Access to cliffs and beaches is now looked after by Natural England under the Maritime and Coastal Access Act 2009, which is establishing 4,500km of coastal path around England.
The iconic Dorset landmark is now difficult for visitors to access after this winter’s deluge wiped out the steps to the beach next to the limestone arch.
Mr Weld said Natural England doesn’t have the ‘resources, experience or ability’ to manage a site like Lulworth.
He added that maintenance of coastal access between Portland and Lulworth Cove has an annual budget of £17,000 under Natural England but the estate had been spending up to £45,000 a year to manage and maintain a 6km stretch between White Nothe and Lulworth Cove.
Mr Weld said: “The consequence of the introduction of the Coastal Access Scheme at Lulworth and other places like Lulworth will be to significantly reduce the quality of access, particularly because Natural England do not have the resources, experience or ability to effectively manage popular and much-visited sites such as Lulworth; sadly, within the few short months since confirmation of the scheme at Lulworth, this has proven to be the case.
“Safe access to the beaches is still possible, but not conveniently as it has been in the past and, for the foreseeable future, I cannot see that Natural England will have the resources or the willingness to continue the level of management and maintenance that the estate has striven to provide up to now.”
A barricade closing the path to Durdle Door beach to the public has been put in place by Lulworth Estate workers.
The extreme weather has prompted a warning from Portland Coastguard about treacherous ‘tipping points’ on Dorset’s coastal paths.
The weekend’s deluge, followed by a big freeze, means that parts of the path are more prone to land slips than normal.
Simon Dennis, of Portland Coastguard, said there were ongoing incidents of landslides along the Dorset coast at Swanage, Lulworth, Weymouth, Portland, Golden Cap, Charmouth, Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis and Sidmouth.
He said: “This change in the weather is what we have been concerned about from the off and could be the final tipping point.”
Natural England was not available for comment.