Constable country blueprint unveiled

A BLUEPRINT for the long-term development of one of the most beautiful areas of East Anglia was criticised last night for protecting the rich and "stifling the livelihoods" of ordinary people.

A BLUEPRINT for the long-term development of one of the most beautiful areas of East Anglia was criticised last night for protecting the rich and "stifling the livelihoods" of ordinary people.

The new management strategy for the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley, produced by councils across Essex and Suffolk, was unveiled yesterday.

It says the area – known as Constable country after being immortalised in the celebrated artist's works – should retain its rural charm, not be deluged with traffic, and the River Stour should be left as natural as possible.

But the blueprint was immediately labelled the "worst case of nimbysm" by Lesley Ford, spokeswoman for the River Stour Trust.

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She claimed: "When you look at the countryside around here and compare it to other Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB), it's not that exciting. This is all about protecting property prices and existing private wealth."

Designated an AONB in 1970, the Dedham Vale is one of 41 in England and Wales with only three others in the south east.

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Together with National Parks, they are recognised as the country's finest landscapes. Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, management plans must be produced to act as a framework for future planning needs.

In the planning blueprint, the valley retains a rural characteristic with a rich diversity of wildlife and habitats with Constable's views still "largely apparent".

The authors envisage a range of local employment with many working from home using technology. They want the economy to be diverse and sustainable and not to rely purely upon agriculture and tourism.

Traffic should not impact the overall rural character, tranquillity and landscape of the valley, they added, although residents should have access to reliable public transport.

They want tourism to be "sustainable" and regular throughout the year, rather than crowded coaches ploughing people into the area at peak months.

And they insist the River Stour should be as natural as possible and not "intensively managed".

But Mrs Ford said the River Stour Trust, which was consulted by the strategy's joint advisory committee about their desires for increased navigation on the water, said her group would not be signing up to it.

She said: "I'm seething about it all. This plan is just designed to stifle the livelihoods of ordinary people.

"The river is so central to our heritage and the life of the valley, yet the views of ordinary people seem to have been swayed by those in powerful places.

"This is the worst form of nimbysm."

However, Christopher Garnett, Colchester borough councillor for Dedham, said: "I think that's a slightly jaundiced view of what we're trying to achieve.

"What we are striving for is a holistic approach to the Vale, to encourage people to work in a way that is entrepreneurial, but also sustainable.

"This framework is about conserving our heritage in means available to all," he added.

Speaking at the launch yesterday, Tim De-Keyzer, regional director of the Countryside Agency, said: "The Dedham Vale maybe one of the smallest AONBs in the country, but it is perhaps the most perfectly formed.

"What is being laid out here is a way of acting locally, but influencing globally."

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