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Revealed: The £242million value of our incredible landscapes

12:00 26 September 2015

Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Stour Valley Forum host conference entitled Conserving and Enhancing Natural Beauty, at Shrubs Farm, Lamarsh, near Sudbury.

Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Stour Valley Forum host conference entitled Conserving and Enhancing Natural Beauty, at Shrubs Farm, Lamarsh, near Sudbury.

Two areas of much-loved and nationally acknowledged landscape beauty in Suffolk and Essex are “punching well above their weight” when it comes to boosting the local economy, two new studies reveal.

Sun, wind and water at Coastguards beach.  The black lumps are enormous lumps of peat thrown up by the wind driven waves, probably from the Covehithe area by the high windsSun, wind and water at Coastguards beach. The black lumps are enormous lumps of peat thrown up by the wind driven waves, probably from the Covehithe area by the high winds

The combined annual contribution produced by the Dedham Vale and the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) amounts to almost a quarter of a billion pounds.

The pulling power that lures tourists to the two cherished areas is based on a wide variety of characteristics.

Dedham Vale, which includes Constable Country and features attractive lowland English landscapes on the Suffolk-Essex border. The vale’s contribution locally amounted to £52million in 2014, a study by the Destination Research tourism research and intelligence agency reveals.

The larger Suffolk Coast and Heaths area covers 155 square miles of scenic estuaries, ancient heaths, windswept beaches and historic towns and villages, and is especially noted for its virtually unrivalled range of wildlife species. The agency has found its contribution during last year was £192m.

Willy Lotts Cottage at Flatford MillWilly Lotts Cottage at Flatford Mill

The two areas form part of a family of English AONBs and National Parks that another recent report describes as “economic powerhouses” that contribute a total of more than £20bn a year to the nation’s economy. So important is their financial contribution that the report, published by the National Association of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks England, is titled So Much More than the View.

The more localised studies by Destination Research have shown that tourism-related employment across the two Suffolk and Essex AONBs accounts for a total of 5,405 jobs - 1,162 in Dedham Vale and 4,243 on the Suffolk coast.

Simon Amstutz, the manager for the Dedham Vale and Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONBs, said although the designated areas were relatively small, recent research had shown that they “punch well above their weight in terms of natural beauty and contribution to economic recovery.”

He said of the difference in the contributed amounts: “It can be accounted for in the relative size of each of the nationally cherished landscapes and the combined figure of nearly a quarter of a billion pounds demonstrates the value of these superb areas.”

Mr Amstutz said the figures from 2014 showed an increase in the value of tourism in that period of more than £2m since 2013 and in the Dedham Vale AONB an increase of £7m since 2010.

“There are many reasons for these increases and associated tourism-related jobs but the value of the landscapes remains clear in supporting sustainable economic growth and the need to protect our landscapes is clear,” he said.

“It’s not just about the value of tourism and the related employment but the ability of our businesses to recruit and retain the best staff can only be helped by our outstanding landscapes and the opportunities they provide for leisure time and outdoor activity.

“In addition to having two of England’s finest landscapes within easy reach they provide a powerful tool to economic stability.

“Rightly regarded as a treasured national resource and internationally recognised for their special qualities, they provide a base for businesses that rely on a high-quality environment, creative and sporting inspiration, homes for people and wildlife, food and drink and life-enhancing experiences for millions of visitors of all ages.”

David Wood, chairman of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, said the Suffolk coast was “recognised as a national treasure” and the number of people who visit the area demonstrated how much the nation “enjoys this fantastic landscape.”

He added: “The AONB designation, while not stopping development, ensures that any consent given will contribute to the natural beauty and special qualities of the area and thus directly link to the ability of local businesses to attract people to the area and enjoy some of England’s finest landscapes.”

Dedham Vale AONB chairman Nigel Chapman added: “AONBs are our most beautiful and cherished landscapes, with iconic archaeological and historical sites and valuable wildlife habitats.

“The AONB designation ensures that they are conserved and enhanced for us and future generations to enjoy.”

Analysis of the reports – see today’s eaenvironment supplement

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