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Legal pluralism at the beach: Public access, land use and the struggle for the ‘coastal commons’

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Accepted/In press16 Oct 2019

King's Authors


The constantly shifting boundaries between land and sea pose fundamental challenges in resolving land use disputes at the coast. These difficulties are compounded by the fact that multiple agencies and authorities are charged with managing the coastline. This means the coast is a space of legal plurality, subject to overlapping jurisdiction. This paper demonstrates the consequences of this with reference to Whitstable Beach, a case where customary law and established (‘as of right’) use is clashing with private property rights concerning the ownership of, and access to, a beach and foreshore. Noting that the legal authorities are struggling to reconcile these different rights claims, the paper concludes that the effect resolution of land use conflicts on a changing coastline demands legal pliability, and, ideally, a reduction in the overall number of organisations responsible for the regulation of the ‘coastal commons’.

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