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Stour Valley/Sudbury: Proposals to extend an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the north Essex countryside officially submitted

PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 February 2014

Dedham Vale AONB

Dedham Vale AONB

Proposals to enlarge an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the north Essex countryside have been officially submitted for consideration.

The Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Partnership want to extend the boundary of the Dedham Vale AONB westwards towards Sudbury to take in the area covered by villages such as Lamarsh, Alphamstone, Bures and Little Cornard.

Currently, the designated area covers 90sq km and stretches upstream from Manningtree to within one mile of Bures. Supporters of the Dedham Vale AONB have held an ambition to extend it westwards for many years in order to protect the area from development and to gain recognition for its natural beauty and cultural importance.

This aim is backed by the Stour Valley Partnership. The information has now been sent to Natural England.

Chairman of the partnership, Robert Erith, said: “Extending the AONB has been a longstanding goal of the Partnership as well as many other bodies and individuals ever since the original designation of the Dedham Vale AONB in 1970.”

“Constable and Gainsborough both painted here and their landscapes are recognisable today. It is encouraging that this application has the support of all the local authorities.”

The area is within the constituency of Braintree MP Brooks Newmark, who also supports the submission.

He said: “We have so few areas of green space like this left in Essex that we must protect it and extend the envelope. Much of the area is unchanged since Medieval times, the villages are beautiful and many of houses up to 500 years old.

“It would also protect the countryside there from development like solar farms, which are being proposed in rurals areas nearby that have no protection.”

According to David Holland, a member of The Hennys, Middleton and Twinstead Parish Council, should the bid be successful, it could boost tourism.

He said: “This place is a hidden gem – it’s under-protected and under-exploited – and AONB status could have important socio-economic implications for the area.

“Its accessible and criss-crossed by footpaths and attracts people interested in nature and cultural history.”

According to Natural England, an AONB is “an area of high scenic quality which has statutory protection in order to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of its landscape”.

The submission by the Dedham Vale AONB is what is known as a Stage 1 assessment. Should the case be looked on favourably, a more formal process will take place where the exact boundaries would be decided and local landowners and the public consulted.

A spokesman for Natural England said: “Natural England needs to decide if they would be in the national interest, because these are national designations. The whole process can take about three years.”

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