Suffolk: Backing for seascape protection

SUFFOLK’S special “seascapes” should be given the same kind of protection as the nation’s treasured landscapes, countryside campaigners urged today.

There are fears that seascapes around the UK, made up of coastal and inshore sea areas, could be damaged over time by developments such as renewable energy installations, oil extraction, dredging for aggregates, more shipping and port development unless steps are taken to protect them.

Campaign groups, who have published a new manifesto backing the cause, say it is more than 60 years since special areas on land were given protection in the form of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) designations and it is about time the seas surrounding them were treated the same.

Almost all of Suffolk’s coastline falls into the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB but the protection that provides ends at the water’s edge.

With a new system of marine planning being developed and piloted in the east by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), campaigners have released their manifesto today calling for recognition that seascapes are “more than just a view”.

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The partners, including the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), want the Government to take action to carry out assessments of the character of seascapes, identify areas that are of national importance and introduce a mechanism by which they can be protected.

Phil Dyke, coast and marine adviser at the National Trust, said that seascapes which could be protected from development included Suffolk’s AONB.

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“As an island nation it does seem strange that it’s taken us more than six decades to start thinking about how we protect our seascapes, these wonderful yet fragile places that mean so much to people,” he said.

“In Suffolk and Norfolk we have AONBs that are protected landscapes that are recognised as ‘jewels in the crown’ and the argument is that the special qualities of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB are derived from the combination of the landscape and the seascape.

“It’s the combination of the two that makes it such a special experience but what we don’t have is the means to recognise the importance of the seascape and offer it some sort of protection.”

This week the MMO, a new public body given powers under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, created its first marine planning area, which stretches from Felixstowe all the way up to Flamborough Head in East Yorkshire.

Steve Brooker, Head of Marine Planning at the MMO, said “This is an important milestone for the future of our seas, as marine planning formally begins.

“These plans will help the MMO and others to take decisions about development of the marine area, which will include protection of the marine environment and benefits for coastal communities.” Linda Clapham, a spokeswoman for the Suffolk Preservation Society, the county’s branch of the CPRE, said a robust marine planning system would be welcomed by coastal communities.

She said: “The environment is always losing out to other things. It’s important that there is a proper planning framework in place so that we know where the boundaries are.”

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