Suffolk coast a test-bed for Government’s green plan

Marine Pioneer project manager Peter Cosgrove on the beach at Felixstowe. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROW

Marine Pioneer project manager Peter Cosgrove on the beach at Felixstowe. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Suffolk AONB hosts a Defra Marine Pioneer Project.

Marine Pioneer project manager Peter Cosgrove on the beach at Felixstowe. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROW

Marine Pioneer project manager Peter Cosgrove on the beach at Felixstowe. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The Suffolk coast is a nationally acclaimed gem that, with its abundance of natural features, wildlife riches and recreational opportunities, seems almost to be a microcosm of all that Britain’s coastline has to offer, save perhaps for towering rocky cliffs.

To say it’s dynamic is an understatement. It’s ever-changing in the face of coastal erosion. There’s the frequent threat of flooding from North Sea incursion. It’s vital for Suffolk’s economy. Above all, it’s outstandlingly beautiful and is nationally designated as such. All in all, it’s an interesting, intriguing and inspiring place to be.

And that is precisely why it has been chosen to be a test-bed - it is the subject of an intense study designed to help the Government deliver marine aspects of its recently announced 25-Year Environment Plan.

The Suffolk coast is one of only two Defra Marine Pioneer Project areas in the UK - the other being in north Devon, where there is also a landscape Pioneer project. Elsewhere, Pioneer projects are in action in a river catchment area in Cumbria and in an urban area of Greater Manchester.

Hosted by the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Suffolk project is being managed by Peter Cosgrove, who is employed in the Defra-funded role by Suffolk County Council and who has a strong background in marine environmental matters, having worked for more than three years for the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), which strategically co-ordinates the Pioneer project.

Mr Cosgrove said: “The Suffolk Marine Pioneer will test how the health and quality of the marine environment might be enhanced whilst still meeting the needs of community, business and society by taking a ‘natural capital’ approach that links the physical and biological ‘assets’ of the environment that humans gain benefit from, such as fish in the sea, the extent of saltmarsh, etc to the pressures on them.

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“This Pioneer will specifically be examining marine and coastal assets that provide flood defence, carbon capture, tourism and recreational benefits and how one might enhance these benefits for the people living and working in Suffolk.”

He added: “For the Pioneer to deliver, we need to examine where or how we might do things differently such that we can lever greater benefit from the marine environment. In many cases, the first thing to do is to improve peoples’ awareness of what benefits are provided by nature. The passion and knowledge of those I’m working for in Suffolk will continue to be invaluable as we work with communities, businesses and the public sector to practically demonstrate how to improve how we engage, use and protect the marine environment.”

A local steering group was directing the Suffolk project and included the AONB, the Water Management Alliance, Natural England, Suffolk County Council, Coastal Partnership East, the Environment Agency, the RSPB, the Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, the MMO and Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils.

AONB manager Simon Amstutz said he hoped the Suffolk project would influence how the environment was viewed in the future and that it would help to address some of its problems.

“We are delighted to be hosting one half of the Marine Pioneer,” he said. “With the publication of the Government’s 25-Year Environment Plan we have seen a commitment to improve the environment within a generation. The Pioneer programme has been explicitly designed to support this aspiration.

“The Pioneer is a new resource to look at some of the issues. It will take a ‘natural capital’ approach that will look at the many elements of the natural environment that has a benefit to humankind. That might be how outstanding environments encourage people to be outside, offering benefits to their mental and physical health. It might be that sensitive saltmarsh has coastal defence, carbon sequestration and fisheries benefits. It might be that our outstanding coast and estuaries encourage visitors to the area and support the region’s economic well-being.

“The Pioneer will look at these issues in partnership with many organisations and seek to inform decision-makers. For the AONB, with its interest across many areas, it means that we can carry on seeking to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Suffolk coast, safe in the knowledge that work is being undertaken to ensure that the benefits that accrue from the natural environment will be factored in to decision-making in the future.”

Mr Amstutz added: “The natural environment is threatened. The aspiration of the 25-Year Environment Plan is sound and hopefully the Pioneer can influence how we look at the environment in the future and start to reverse some of the declines.”

Anyone interested in becoming involved in the Suffolk project can contact Mr Cosgrove at or visit

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