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Plans to extend Suffolk Coasts & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty take ‘decisive step’

PUBLISHED: 15:03 18 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:17 18 December 2018

Walberswick in the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB. 
Picture:Sarah Lucy Brown

Walberswick in the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB. Picture:Sarah Lucy Brown

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Proposals hope to add almost 4,000 hectares of protected landscape across Suffolk and Essex.

Cllr David Wood. chairman of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB Partnership.Cllr David Wood. chairman of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB Partnership.

Plans to significantly increase the area of land with protected status in the region have taken ‘a decisive step’ forward, according to conservationists.

Government agency Natural England has approved proposals to extend the boundaries of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) by almost 4,000 hectares. The decision is now subject to 28 days consultation after which time it will fall to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, currently Michael Gove, to make the final ruling.

Treasured landscape

Chairman of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Partnership, Cllr David Wood, said: “We are delighted that the Natural England board has taken this decisive step towards securing an extension to the nationally significant landscape.”

Walberswick 
Picture:Sarah Lucy BrownWalberswick Picture:Sarah Lucy Brown

The AONB already covers 155 square miles and takes in some of the UK’s most treasured landscapes. The extension would bring in an extra 3,793 extra hectares and would include the Stour Estuary and its northern estuary valley slopes at Brantham and the majority of the southern estuary valley slopes.

Also included would be the Freston Brook Valley, a tributary of the Orwell Estuary which extends inland from the existing AONB boundary westwards and includes surrounding plateau woodlands, and the Samford Valley, a tributary of the Stour Estuary which extends further inland from the existing AONB boundary at Stutton Bridge and includes some areas of the neighbouring Shotley Peninsula plateau.

Size does matter

Meanwhile, a nature reserve on the Suffolk coast has been reduced in size by a third after Natural England failed to agree terms for a new lease with the land owner. Suffolk’s National Coastal Nature Reserve (NNR) will lose around 726 hectares from the parishes of Blythburgh, Walberswick and Westleton.

Julian Roughton, chief executive of Suffolk Wildlife TrustJulian Roughton, chief executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust

The land is owned by Sir Charles Bloise who was unable to be contacted for comment.

Natural England Area manager of Norfolk and Suffolk, Sarah Dawkins, said the land will continue to be protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation, and Special Protection Area.

She added:“We have been in discussions with the land owner since January 2017, and we would be pleased to discuss a new lease along the lines of the rental values suggested by two separate valuers.”

Chief executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Julian Roughton, said the decision not to retain the lease was “disappointing”.

He added: “When it comes to nature reserves, size does matter and at the Trust we are constantly working to create bigger spaces for nature.

“As such, seeing a nature reserve reduce in size is disappointing even if the land is still legally protected as an SSSI.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust owns and manages part of the Suffolk Coast National Nature, Dingle Marshes, which we will continue to care for-for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of present and future generations.”

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