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Suffolk: MP backs marine protection decision

Snape and the Alde. Photo by Mike Page.

Snape and the Alde. Photo by Mike Page.

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An MP has backed the government’s decision to exclude a Suffolk waterway from a network of marine protected areas despite calls from conservationists.

Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said the debate over the Alde and Ore Estuary becoming a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) had sparked more controversy in her constituency than any other issue, except for the proposed sale of state-owned woodlands in 2010.

Dr Coffey, who spoke against MCZ designation in Parliament last May, welcomed the decision to leave the estuary off a second shortlist of zones, saying it could bring blanket restrictions and uncertainty for future marine activities.

The decision by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) left conservationists frustrated for a second time in recent months, having been turned down for similar protection for the Stour and Orwell estuaries.

Julian Roughton, chief executive of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, which lobbied for designation, argued that there would be no threat of blanket restrictions on the recreational use of the estuary. He added: “The Alde and Ore is special for its birds, habitats and marine features but the marine habitats are not properly protected. MCZ designation ensures that possible future development, such as marine cables, takes into account the importance of the marine environment. The estuary is very special and MCZ designation will help keep it that way.”

However, the Alde and Ore Association, which vows to preserve and protect the Alde, Ore and Butley rivers for the public benefit, argued that the estuary was already protected by a number of special designations, and that proposals of what might be protected in the MCZ were “poorly based”. Chairman Alison Andrews said that, while in favour of conservation, evidence provided of features to be protected was, at best, “slight and patchy”.

Dr Coffey said: “In Suffolk, marine activities happily coexist with our already high quality environmental stewardship and will continue to do so without the need for this further designation.”

A final tranche selection of potential MCZs is due in 2016.

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