Threatened coastline given SSSI status

A SECTION of Suffolk coastline was yesterday given legal protection by English Nature in recognition of its “nationally important” geological status. The stretch of soft sandy cliffs, shore and headlands between Easton Bavents, near Southwold, and Pakefield, near Lowestoft, has become Suffolk's newest Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

A SECTION of Suffolk coastline was yesterday given legal protection by English Nature in recognition of its “nationally important” geological status.

The stretch of soft sandy cliffs, shore and headlands between Easton Bavents, near Southwold, and Pakefield, near Lowestoft, has become Suffolk's newest Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

English Nature's independent governing council ruled the area should be protected because it contains evidence that “tells the story of our planet's past and helps climate change experts plan for the future”.

Although yesterday's move protects the coastline in its current form, planning permission could still be granted by Waveney District Council for coastal defence work, if an application is submitted.


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Gareth Dalglish, of English Nature's Suffolk Team, said: “People are quite understandably worried about coast erosion. But the decision to confirm the SSSI is not a decision to allow the coast to erode.

“The policy for coast protection is decided by local authorities, who must weigh up all the facts and reach a balanced decision. If we want to maintain our beaches and to protect people's homes and the environment, it is important that sensible, considered judgements are made. We need long term solutions, not short term gain.”

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The ruling comes as a blow to the do-it-yourself coastal defence campaign operated by retired engineer Peter Boggis.

A key policy of English Nature is to allow natural erosion to “proceed freely” in SSSIs. It claims “any development which prevents or slows natural erosion can have a damaging effect”.

Mr Boggis, 73, has been fighting to protect his land near Southwold for three years by building a soft sea defence in front of the eroding cliffs.

But the newly-introduced SSSI, covering the area around the pensioner's home, makes any such future work illegal without planning permission.

The council ruled the coastline is nationally important for its geology, geomorphology, birds such as the bittern and habitats such as saline lagoons and vegetated shingle.

The area was already protected as a SSSI but English Nature had to take the unusual step of re-notifying the site after natural coastal erosion saw the coastline recede behind the original boundaries drawn on the map.

Factfile

Pakefield to Easton Bavents is one of the largest SSSIs in Suffolk.

It is more 12.5 km long and over 735 ha in size.

The SSSI includes much of the land currently included within the previous site, Benacre to Easton Bavents SSSI.

Discussions about this new SSSI have been taking place with owners and occupiers since 2003.

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