Beach Access, Property Rights, and Social-Distributive Questions: A Cross-National Legal Perspective of Fifteen Countries

Rachelle Alterman, Cygal Pellach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The right to access and enjoy the coastal zone, and especially the beach, is a centuries-old legal tenet in many countries and a key part of Integrated Coastal Zone Management. However, the legal right for coastal access takes on different forms and degrees in different countries (or states). In this paper we argue that accessibility to coastal zones should be seen as a multi-faceted concept, and we distinguish among four different categories of accessibly. The first two—horizontal and vertical access—are the usual notions. We add two more: access to sea views, and access for people with disabilities. Regarding all four categories, in addition to the legal survey, we also attempt to point out some potential social justice issues. The comparative analysis focuses on national-level law and policy in fifteen advanced-economy countries. Most are also signatories to one or two international legal or policy rules about coastal management. The factual information on each country is based on country reports by top national scholars recently published in a book initiated and edited by this paper’s authors. In this paper, the authors develop further systematic comparative analysis within a new theoretical framing. The findings show that to date, the international rules have had only limited on-the-ground influence. Many gaps remain, mirroring cross-national inequalities in the rights to beach access. The comparative findings point to some emerging trends—both progressive and regressive. The conclusions call for upgrading the issue of coastal access rights through further research on aspects of implementation and through cross-national exchange.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4237
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2 Apr 2022


  • Barcelona ICZM protocol
  • beach access
  • coastal zones
  • distributive justice
  • international comparative analysis
  • legal aspects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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