Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB extension proposed

Saltmarsh and mudflats on the Stour Estuary at Copperas Bay, Essex , in the proposed AONB extension.

Saltmarsh and mudflats on the Stour Estuary at Copperas Bay, Essex , in the proposed AONB extension. Picture: RSPB/ANDY HAY

Natural England launches consultation on increasing Suffolk protected landscape area.

Sunrise over the Stour Estuary - an area covered by the proposed AONB extension. Picture: BARRY FREE

Sunrise over the Stour Estuary - an area covered by the proposed AONB extension. Picture: BARRY FREEMAN

The public’s views are being sought on a massive potential extension of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that would increase the size of the much-loved designated landscape by almost 4,000 hectares.

Government agency Natural England, which has responsibility for creating AONBs and reviewing their boundaries, today launches a consultation on the proposal for a southward extension that would take the protected area into Essex.

Already covering 155 square miles and covering some of the UK’s most treasured landscapes, the extension would cover 3,793 extra hectares. It 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

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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.

Natural England chairman Andrew Sells said: “The landscapes spanning Suffolk and Essex are undoubtedly some of the most spectacular in the country, treasured by locals and visitors alike. This is a great opportunity to consider their natural and cultural richness and whether they merit new areas receiving the protection of AONB status.”

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David Wood, chairman of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB Partnership, said he and his partnership colleagues were pleased that the Natural England Board had approved the extension proposal and welcomed the next stage of the review and consultation.

He added: “Our ambition to include this new area into national designation will bring new opportunities for conserving and enhancing our outstanding landscape and collaborating with the vibrant communities within it.”

Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB manager Simon Amstutz said: “We have just seen the Government publish a 25-year environment plan with the stated aim to protect and enhance the natural environment. The AONB designation can aid this by providing the opportunity to look after our most precious landscapes and the features that contribute to their natural beauty.

“The AONB designation respects and celebrates the agricultural activity that has shaped these landscapes over many years and seeks to ensure that future generations can enjoy these outstanding landscapes and the natural and historic features contained within them, including the wildlife that we know is under threat.

“In practical terms this can include the AONB teams volunteers undertaking wildlife projects, access to grants facilitated by the AONB and supporting tourism businesses that trade on the natural capital of the area that supports a tourism economy of nearly £200million in the existing AONB.”

The consultation runs until April 20 and includes drop-in events on Tuesday, February 20, at Royal Harwich Yacht Club, Main Road, Woolverstone, from 10am to 3.30pm, and on Wednesday, February 21, at the Venture Centre 2000, Bromley Road, Lawford, from 10am to 3.30pm. Phone 0208 0265 774 for further information.

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