Management Strategy

The Stour & Orwell Estuaries Management Strategy

2016 – 2020

The Management Strategy was revised in 2016 by the members of the Stour & Orwell Estuaries Management Group and the draft Strategy and Action Plan offered for comment for six weeks in June/ July 2016. Thank you to all who contributed.

Click here to view the consultation comments and responses
Click here to view or download the Strategy as a pdf (24KB)
Click here to view or download the Action Plan (please note this is formatted to fit landscape on A4 when printed, 453KB)

 

  Contents              

1. Vision statement
2. Introducing the Stour and Orwell estuaries
3. The Stour & Orwell Estuaries Management Group
4. The Stour & Orwell Estuaries Management Strategy
5. Themes and Strategic Objectives
Theme 1: Integrated planning and sustainable development
 Theme 2: Protecting environmental features and adapting to the changing coastal zone
Theme 3: Supporting sustainable commercial activities
Theme 4: Managing recreational activity
6. The Action Plan
7. Review
8. Appendices
Appendix 1 Duties of public authorities in relation to Marine Protected Area (MPA) management
Appendix 2 Shoreline Management Plan Actions (live)
Appendix 3 Glossary of Terms
Appendix 4 Links to plans and documents referenced in this Strategy
Appendix 5 Terms of Reference of the Stour & Orwell Estuaries Management Group
Appendix 6 Abbreviations of organisations

 

1.  Vision Statement

This strategy seeks to promote a sustainable future for the Stour and Orwell estuaries through the management of human activity in a way that is compatible with the conservation of the estuarine landscape and wildlife.

2.  Introducing the Stour and Orwell estuaries

The Stour and the Orwell estuaries extend from their tidal limits at Manningtree in Essex and Ipswich in Suffolk to their convergence at Harwich Harbour before reaching the open coast at Harwich and Landguard point, and they are normally considered together as one geographical unit.

Valued and protected for their special environment:  The banks of the River Orwell and the north side of the River Stour lie within the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB), one of England’s finest landscapes.  The south bank of the Stour lies in Essex and is being formally considered as an extension to the AONB.

Both estuaries support rich, diverse wildlife and habitats and are afforded high levels of protection under national and international legislations.  In particular, the salt marshes and fresh water grazing marshes provide habitat for significant numbers of over-wintering geese, ducks and wading birds, which are attracted to the sheltered estuaries by mild winters and the vast numbers of invertebrates living in the mudflats.

The estuaries have the following wildlife designations:

  • Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Birds Directive (79/409/EEC1979),
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) under the United Kingdom’s Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,
  • Ramsar site (for wetland habitats) under the Ramsar Convention 1971,
  • The estuaries are included in the schedule of Natura 2000 European Marine Sites.

Links to citations of designated areas can be found in Appendix 4.

The estuaries also have a rich historic landscape.  The Landguard peninsula is the most southerly point in Suffolk and has protected the entrance to Harwich Harbour since the 16th Century.  It is home to the Grade 1 listed Landguard Fort which dates from 1745 and most of the area is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument due to the wealth of military remains and archaeology.  Its 25.4ha Local Nature Reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a hot spot for migratory birds, and Landguard’s coastal vegetated shingle habitat is globally rare.

At the time of this Strategy review, government policy seeks to facilitate an increase the nation’s housing provision and economic growth.  Some communities close to the estuaries are expanding, with new homes being proposed and built.  There will be an increase in the number of people living in the area over the coming years and the impacts on wildlife and habitats will need to be managed.

The estuaries are vulnerable to the potential impact of climate change, including possible sea level rise.  The potential for large scale loss of salt marsh and freshwater habitats on the East Anglian coast has implications for both nature conservation and flood risk management.

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Valued for their economic role:  The estuaries have a very significant economic role.  They host one of the UK’s most important port clusters, which includes Felixstowe (the port with the greatest container movements in the country), Harwich (a major east coast ferry and cruise port), and Ipswich (a substantial regional port and the UK’s largest grain exporting port).

The ports, together with agriculture, marinas, fisheries and other industries, support over 32,000 jobs in the surrounding communities.

Valued by local communities and visitors:   The estuaries are a popular destination for leisure and tourism, a sector that contributes over £1.75 billion annually to Suffolk’s economy (Suffolk Nature Strategy).  Local people and visitors enjoy a wide range of leisure activities on and alongside the water supported by marinas and boat yards, local clubs and societies. 

Walking is very popular and there are long-distance trails that attract tourists as well as local people.  The England Coast Path is a new national trail that is being established by Natural England around the whole of the coast of England, and its route includes the Stour and Orwell estuaries. 

The attractive and varied landscape, and opportunities for quiet enjoyment as well as active sports, make the Suffolk coast and estuaries an attractive place to live and work.

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3.  The Stour & Orwell Estuaries Management Group

 Aims and membership:  The Stour and Orwell Estuaries Management Group (‘The Group’) works in partnership to achieve the sustainable use of the estuaries by promoting human and economic activity that is compatible with the special landscape and wildlife qualities of the area.

The Group is comprised of organisations that have statutory or operational, moral or other interests in the sustainable management of the estuaries.  It aims to facilitate good communication and partnership working, collaborate on new projects and source and support funding, in order to pursue the objectives detailed in its Management Strategy.  It is central in identifying issues and finding ways to improve the management of the estuaries, and exploring opportunities to improve the visitor experience.

Link to list of Stour & Orwell Estuaries Management Group members

The Group organises the annual Stour & Orwell Forum, a popular event, which is well-supported by parish councils.  The Forum shares topics of interest and presents the Group’s activities to people from local communities.

The Group is funded by contributions from its members and is coordinated by the Suffolk Estuaries Officer (hosted by the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). 

The Terms of Reference for the Group can be found at Appendix 5.

Many challenges lie ahead for this group and its member organisations.  There needs to be continued access to the estuaries on land and water while balancing the conflicting demands of robust wildlife protection, a changing coastline, development pressure, increasing recreational activity and the need to promote the growth of jobs, commerce and industry.

The Group is well placed to meet these challenges, using a partnership approach that combines its members’ expertise and resources in a co-ordinated way to anticipate and meet future needs and minimise potential problems.

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4.  The Stour & Orwell Estuaries Management Strategy

History of the Strategy:  The Group produced the first Stour and Orwell Management Strategy in 1996 in response to central Government encouragement for appropriate local organisations to develop a co-ordinated approach to estuary management. 

A ‘Scheme of Management’ was produced in 2003 by those organisations having a statutory responsibility to the Special Protection Area (known collectively as the Relevant Authorities).  In addition, a revised Management Strategy was produced in 2004 to which all partners, statutory and non-statutory contributed. Both documents were revised in 2010.

In 2015 it was proposed, and Natural England agreed, that it would be more efficient to combine the two documents, and hold the previously separate meetings together.  This revised and combined Management Strategy is in effect also a ‘Scheme of Management’ as it includes the essential considerations of the protection of the SPA.

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Aims of the Strategy:  The Strategy aims to help Group members achieve the best sustainable outcomes for the estuaries whilst in pursuit of their aims and businesses; to benefit the economy and society and protect the special wildlife, habitats, and landscapes.  It is intended that the Strategy is shared with other interested parties such as local communities, local decision- makers and policy-makers.

The Strategy includes:

  • a vision for the future of the estuaries
  • key themes and objectives set by the Group to guide its work
  • an Action Plan listing actions agreed by members who share ambitions to further the sustainable use of the estuaries
  • the statutory conservation duties of Relevant Authorities in relation to their current and future operations (Appendix 1)

In producing this Strategy, the Group aims to:

  • be a focal point for input from all stakeholders
  • be a vehicle to resolve and pre-empt issues that may have an impact on the integrity of the estuaries
  • identify key opportunities for improving the management of the estuaries that can be realistically achieved
  • raise awareness and to increase knowledge and understanding of the sensitivities, qualities and pressures on the estuaries
  • promote the public’s access to and appreciation of the landscape and wildlife of the estuaries
  • monitor and review the progress of the Group’s agreed actions, link to Action Plan

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5  Themes and Strategic Objectives

Introducing the Themes:  This Strategy is arranged into four themes, covering the three pillars of sustainable development: economy, environment and society; and a fourth theme, the recreational use of the estuaries, which is focused on the leisure-time activities of the wider public.

Theme 1: Integrated planning and sustainable development
Theme 2: Protecting environmental features and adapting to the changing coastal zone
Theme 3: Supporting sustainable commercial activities
Theme 4: Managing recreational activity

There is a degree of overlap between the themes, which is expected as this is a holistic strategy.  Economic activity and a good quality of life in local communities both benefit from a healthy and attractive environment and landscape.

The four Themes are expanded into Objectives; bold statements that describe what the Strategy is aiming to achieve.

While this Strategy brings together the economic, social and environmental objectives of its members, there are other plans affecting the estuaries that may focus on single issues.  Examples are: Natural England’s Site Improvement Plan for the SPA, the England Coast Path, Haven Gateway Partnership plans and projects, County and Local Authority growth plans and strategies, the Essex and Suffolk Shoreline Management Plan, the East Marine Plan, the South East Marine Plan and the Water Framework Directive. This Strategy may incorporate elements of these in its Action plan where appropriate.  

All the Shoreline Management Plan actions are included, as the oversight of these was adopted by the SOEMG.

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Theme 1: Integrated planning and sustainable development

 

Objective1.1  Local (terrestrial) planning policies support the environmental, social and economic requirements of the estuaries

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Objective 1.2 Local Planning Authority decisions on (terrestrial) planning applications support and provide opportunities for enhancements to the estuaries

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Objective 1.3 There is a joined-up approach to marine and terrestrial planning in the estuaries

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Objective 1.4 Local communities are aware of the Strategy and can use it to advise local decision-making

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 Objective1.1  Local (terrestrial) planning policies support the environmental, social and economic requirements of the estuaries

This Strategy will support sustainable economic growth by helping Local Planning Authorities take full account of the special environmental, social and economic qualities of the estuaries through the production of planning policy and in decision taking.

The Stour and Orwell estuaries have six surrounding Local Planning Authorities who each produce local plans to guide development in their areas.  The 2011 Localism Act also introduced neighbourhood plans which give Parish Councils, neighbourhood forums or community groups the powers to produce their own plans.

Local Planning Authorities invite statutory consultees (including Parish Councils) to make comments on planning applications, which are material considerations when the LPA determines planning applications. Nevertheless, planning applications must still be determined in accordance with the development plan in its entirety.  

The status of the estuaries as a Special Protection Area, owing to the importance of the area for migratory birds, requires that plans or projects must be in line with the requirements of the Habitats Regulations.  It is important that these requirements are considered first at a strategic level in the Local Planning Authorities’ Local Plans. 

Individual developments that are likely to have a significant effect on a European site require an appropriate assessment under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.

There are also wider biodiversity duties that apply to public authorities.  Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006) states that ‘Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity’. Section 40(3) of the same Act also states that ‘conserving biodiversity includes, in relation to a living organism or type of habitat, restoring or enhancing a population or habitat’. 

The duties that apply to public bodies with respect to Marine Protected Areas (including the Stour & Orwell estuaries) are explained in Appendix 1.

Government policies aim to promote sustainable development, the delivery of housing, economic growth and the provision of necessary infrastructure.  Other issues pertinent to the protected areas include tourism, recreation and flood risk.

The framework that guides policies and decisions includes the following:

The National Planning Policy Framework (2012), which guides the planning system towards sustainable development.  It sets out ‘the Government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied, and provides a framework within which local people and their accountable councils can produce their own distinctive local and neighbourhood plans, which reflect the needs and priorities of their communities’.

The National Policy Statement for Ports (2012), which is part of the planning system to deal with nationally significant infrastructure proposals. Decisions on these are made by the Secretary of State.  It ‘provides the framework for decisions on proposals for new port development. It is also a relevant consideration for the Marine Management Organisation, which decides other port development proposals, and for local planning authorities where they have a role to play’. The Government believes that there is a compelling need for substantial additional port capacity over the next 20–30 years.

 Appendix 4 gives links to the documents mentioned above, and also to the AONB Management Plan and details on the proposed extension of the AONB to include the southern shore of the Stour.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 1.2 Local Planning Authority decisions on (terrestrial) planning applications support and provide opportunities for enhancements to the estuaries

Group members keep well informed about planning applications relevant to the estuaries and are able to offer their views to Local Planning Authority in good time.  Responses can be shared with and supported by other Group members, who can also make reference to this Strategy to support their comments.

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 place a statutory duty on Local Authorities to undertake ‘appropriate assessment’ of planning applications which may affect designated areas such as the Stour and Orwell Special Protection Area.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 places specific requirements on the application of ‘permitted development’ rights in circumstances when the development is likely to have a significant effect on a European site.  Developments likely to have a significant effect on the estuaries may also be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment under the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 (as amended).  In addition, the protection of the Special Protection Area and SSSI has been strengthened by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. 

Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) screening of development proposals is critical in assessing potential impacts and mitigating them.  If a likely significant effect cannot be screened out, then full Appropriate Assessment will be required.  Where a new development is assessed as likely to cause increased pressures to the Special Protection Area or its features, developer contributions may be sought by Local Planning Authorities to mitigate these effects. 

Working together the Group can gain benefits for the estuaries through the planning system, encouraging appropriate developments to progress and the local economy to grow in a sensitive way.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 1.3 There is a joined-up approach to marine and terrestrial planning in the estuaries

The marine planning system is still relatively new at this 2016 Strategy review, and the Group will work to understand and embrace marine planning requirements alongside the terrestrial planning system.

The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 established the legal basis for marine planning and established the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), which is responsible for preparing marine plans in England.  The UK Marine Policy Statement provides the objectives for the marine environment that are taken forward in the marine plans (in the process of completion), and it sits alongside the National Planning Policy Framework and the Localism Act 2011. See Appendix 4 for links to published documents.

The East Inshore and Offshore Marine Plans cover the area north from Felixstowe to Flamborough and affect some of the outer channel areas that are associated with the Haven ports. 

Most of the Stour & Orwell estuaries will be covered by the South East Inshore Marine Plan, which is not yet completed.  Marine plans set out priorities and directions for future development within the plan area.  They inform sustainable use of marine resources, help marine users understand the best locations for their activities including where new developments may be appropriate, and provide guidance on activities to promote or avoid for some locations.  They also support environmental management plans and designations via promoting sustainable use.

Public authorities taking authorisation or enforcement decisions that affect the marine area must make these in accordance with the Marine Policy Statement and marine plans.  Public authorities taking decisions other than on authorisation or enforcement matters, but which relate to any function capable of affecting the marine area (e.g. representations made as a consultee or in the preparation of a terrestrial plan) must have regard to the Marine Policy Statement and marine plans.  Associated with the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 are enhanced requirements for licensing marine activities, including works on the intertidal zone. 

The Group will work to streamline licensing and bureaucratic processes wherever possible, to enable efficiencies within organisations and more timely outcomes and will make good use of the existing Coastal Concordat.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 1.4 Local communities are aware of the Strategy and can use it to advise local decision-making

The Strategy will be made widely available during its review and opinion will be sought from the Stour & Orwell Forum (Parish Councils, organisations and interested people who regularly attend the annual Forum event) and the Suffolk Coast Forum (a meeting of elected representatives and estuary partnership leads from across Suffolk).

The Strategy will be useful to Parish Councils in the production of Neighbourhood Plans and for other parish activities. 

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Theme 2: Protecting environmental features and adapting to the changing coastal zone

 

Objective 2.1 Flood risk and coastal erosion management measures are promoted

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Objective 2.2 The biodiversity and landscape of the estuaries and their hinterland areas are conserved and enhanced

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Objective 2.3 The risk of environmental damage from the potential introduction of invasive non-native species is assessed and minimised

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Objective 2.4 Environmental features are monitored to identify and measure change

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Objective 2.5 Water Framework Directive objectives are achieved

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 Objective 2.1 Flood risk and coastal erosion management measures are promoted

The coast and estuaries have always been subject to change, and flood risk management plans exist to help manage the increased risk of erosion and flooding caused by sea level rise, the fall in land level due to the sinking UK tectonic plate, and climate change.

In England, the Environment Agency has a responsibility to make sure that the country improves both the approach to reducing the risk of flooding and responding to floods when they happen.  At a local level, the Flood & Water Management Act 2010 set up bodies called Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFA), responsible for managing local flood risk from surface water, ground water and ordinary watercourses.  Suffolk County Council is Suffolk’s LLFA and Essex County Council is Essex’s LLFA.  Main river and coastal flooding remain the responsibility of the Environment Agency.

Coastal flood and coastal erosion risk management on the Stour and Orwell estuaries is addressed in the Essex and South Suffolk Shoreline Management Plan (SMP), which was developed in partnership and published by the Environment Agency in 2010.  It provides a framework for the management of flood risk and erosion over the next 100 years.  See Appendix 4 for a link to the full SMP document and the actions table overseen by this Group.

The Essex and South Suffolk SMP actions are included in the Strategy, as the Stour & Orwell Estuary Management Group has formal responsibility for the oversight of these actions.  See Appendix 2.  The Suffolk and Essex Flood Risk Strategies are complementary to the Shoreline Management Plan and are linked at Appendix 4.

Sea walls are generally managed by the Environment Agency, which has permissive powers, and otherwise by private landowners. The maintenance of sea walls is prioritised (depending on delivery against specific outcome measures) and the Environment Agency works with landowners and Local Authorities to deliver this function within available funding.  Increased flood risk has implications for people and the economy, for protected fresh water grazing marshes, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, hinterland habitats and valuable agricultural land.  Sea walls also provide potential routes for paths for public access and a means of accessing the shores of the estuary for leisure and commercial activities. 

Coastal erosion has impacts on cliff top communities.  Erosion caused by wind and rain, as well as increased wave action and storminess, increases the risk of land slippage, such as seen on the cliff frontage at Shotley peninsula.

The potential impacts of climate change and sea level rise also have cumulative implications for river basin management through the Water Framework Directive.  The Water Framework Directive is a European Union directive which commits European Union member states to achieve good qualitative and quantitative status of all water bodies (including marine waters up to one nautical mile from shore).

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 2.2 The biodiversity and landscape of the estuaries and their hinterland areas are conserved and enhanced

The need to fulfil the economic and recreational potential of the estuaries while protecting their sensitive environmental qualities is a thread that runs through all four themes in this Strategy.  Many organisations and individuals, including private land owners and managers do important work in achieving this objective.

Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England and Natural England’s Site Improvement Plan for the Stour & Orwell Special Protection Area is referenced in this strategy as it identifies where potentially harmful interactions can occur, and suggests actions to address them. 

The habitats and features covered by the Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Area designations are assessed periodically by Natural England, and the aim is to achieve ‘favourable’ status; an outcome that will acknowledge a resilient suite of habitats, healthy populations of plant and animal species and a measure of success of this Strategy.

Appendix 4 lists web links to the following documents:

The conservation objectives of the Special Protection Area and its citation; European Marine Site - 2001 Regulation 33 Conservation Advice (under review); a description of the Special Protection Area from Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC); details on the Ramsar (wetlands) designation.

In addition to preventing damage to features and wildlife, direct measures to conserve, create and enhance habitats, biodiversity and landscape are considered in this theme. 

The inter-tidal habitats of these estuaries are vitally important.  They support the spectacle of bird life for which the estuaries are renowned and are home to diverse animal and plant life.  Saltmarsh habitats will come under increasing pressure in the future from ‘coastal squeeze’. This term describes how in some areas, where the edges of the estuary are constrained by man-made structures and sea defences, saltmarsh is gradually thinned and ultimately lost as it is unable to migrate landward in adaptation to sea level rise. In other areas it is the natural profile of the land that can prevent saltmarsh processing inland.

There is potential to create new intertidal habitat to replace existing habitats that are declining, although this is dependent on the willingness of landowners and is connected to the financial implications and opportunities of the day.

Working in partnerships that include businesses and the community the Group will take advantage of the opportunities presented by the availability of waste, dredged sediment to enhance intertidal habitats and so also benefit wildlife and landscape.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 2.3 The risk of environmental damage from the potential introduction of invasive non-native species is assessed and minimised

The effects on our native wildlife and on the cost of marine activities will be significant if large populations of non-native species should become established in these estuaries.

Some current species of interest are: quagga mussel Dreissena rostriformis bugensis, Japanese shore crab Hemigrapsus sanguineus, wireweed Sargassum muticum, Chinese mitten crab Eriocheir sinensis, pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas.

Keeping a watchful eye on the trends and patterns of invasive non-native species (INNS) in the southern North Sea and the English estuaries is therefore essential. 

Known pathways by which INNS can be introduced include shipping ballast water and also plants or crustaceans can attach to hulls of shipping and leisure vessels. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) police the Ballast Water Regulations and, working with the Haven ports, any actions of relevance will be brought to the attention of the Group.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 2.4 Environmental features are monitored to identify and measure change

The Habitat Regulations require the habitat and species of the SPA to be monitored and their conservation status assessed.  This is the responsibility of Natural England and may be carried out by them or by others acting in agreement with them.  It has usually been the case historically, that organisations granted consent for any development in accordance with the requirements of the Habitat Regulations have been required to enter a monitoring agreement with Natural England.  These agreements will generally contain an undertaking to carry out further mitigation work if the development is found to be having a significant effect on the SPA.

Several organisations also undertake environmental monitoring activities to meet their own needs, such as recording aspects of the ecology of plants and animal species in the estuaries and monitoring the behaviour of silt. 

There is a willingness to share data and monitoring activities among organisations where possible and appropriate, and to work together to propose further monitoring, research and analysis to inform future actions. 

A monitoring group was brought together in 2015 and this will be carried forward, seeking efficiencies and reporting results more widely.

It is important that we communicate the findings of monitoring and research, so that local communities can be aware of the changes to environmental features in their estuaries.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 2.5 Water Framework Directive objectives are achieved

The Water Framework Directive is an EU directive, designed to preserve, restore and improve the water environment.  The Environment Agency leads and promotes its importance.

The Water Framework Directive introduced a comprehensive river basin management planning system to help protect and improve the ecological health of our rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal and ground waters.

This is underpinned by the use of environmental standards to help assess risks to the ecological quality of the water environment and to identify the scale of improvements that would be needed to bring waters under pressure back into a good condition. The Environment Agency

The Anglian River Basin Management Plan is available at http://tinyurl.com/AngRBMP.

In this Group the Environment Agency can advise and clarify national advice in a local context on matters such as shellfish and dredging.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Theme 3: Supporting sustainable commercial activities

 

Objective 3.1 The Haven ports operate competitively and sustainably

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Objective 3.2 Farms on the hinterland are managed sustainably

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Objective 3.3 The estuaries support sustainable fisheries and sustainable aquaculture (farming fish/ shellfish under controlled conditions)

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Objective 3.4 The estuaries have healthy and resilient (wild) fish and shellfish populations and estuarine habitats and fish nursery areas are protected

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Objective 3.5 Local marinas and boatyards have sustainable businesses, facilities and activities

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 Objective 3.1 The Haven ports operate competitively and sustainably

Due to their sheltered waters and geographical proximity to Europe, the Stour and Orwell estuaries host some of the UK’s most important ports.  Felixstowe, Harwich International, ABP Ipswich, Harwich Navyard and Mistley are together referred to as the Haven Ports, and are strategically important to the local, regional and national economy. 

Approximately 1.5 million passengers pass through the Haven Ports into East Anglia each year, making an important contribution to the region’s economy, especially to the tourism and recreation based industries.

The Port of Felixstowe has the most container movements of any port in the UK and has developed new deep water berths for the largest container vessels currently trading or expected.  Further development has been consented at Bathside Bay and will be commenced, subject to various conditions, in response to commercial needs. Over 40% of total UK container trade passes through the Stour and Orwell estuaries at Felixstowe.

Harwich International Port provides facilities for ferries, cruise ships, ‘Roll on Roll off’ vessels and tankers, and also provides support to offshore wind-farms.

The Port of Ipswich is owned and operated by Associated British Ports (ABP). It runs ‘Roll on Roll off’ and other freight services to Europe, has a major grain export facility, and has over 500 leisure berths in the wet dock.

The ports promote the use of the estuaries and coastal waters as an environmentally preferable alternative to road transport and rail freight is used to reduce the pressure on link roads.

Maintenance dredging is carried out on both estuaries to ensure the channel is navigable.  Replenishment of sediment in key areas of the estuary is carried out to help reduce any loss of sediment from mudflats and saltmarsh areas.

The Group provides a forum where the ports can share the outcomes of their environmental monitoring activity and where benefits can be gained by using dredged sediment in beneficial projects.  It also allows the ports to share development plans, ensuring that sustainability considerations are included early and the granting of consents is more straightforward.  A greater public awareness of port activities is achieved through the annual Forum and by sharing notices from ports among the members of the Group.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 3.2 Farms on the hinterland are managed sustainably

Much of the land surrounding the estuaries is farmed and farmers and landowners play a vital role in conserving the natural beauty of the estuaries.  Great care is required in the management of fertilisers, pesticides and chemicals, livestock and slurries to avoid chemicals leaching into surface waters and groundwater and ultimately polluting the waters of the estuaries. 

The hinterland of the estuaries is an Environment Agency-designated Nitrate Vulnerable Zone, and farmers in this area must follow specific guidelines in the use of nitrogen fertilisers and storage of organic manures.

 

Catchment Sensitive Farming is a Defra initiative managed by Natural England within the Countryside Stewardship scheme that offers advice and financial assistance to farmers to promote good practice and to support the best management practices that protect the public water supply and natural water bodies.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 3.3 The estuaries support sustainable fisheries and sustainable aquaculture (farming fish/ shellfish under controlled conditions)

A low level of commercial fishing is conducted within the estuaries.  The small fleets at Harwich and Felixstowe Ferry operate in the estuaries’ sheltered waters when poor weather limits their ability to work offshore.  They fish in the lower reaches of the estuaries, trawling and netting for species of commercial value such as sole and shrimp.

Existing regulations limit the size of fishing vessels and types of fishing activity that may be conducted in the estuaries.  European, national and local fisheries regulations apply to commercial (and in some cases, recreational) fishing activities within the estuaries. 

The Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) seek to use local information to deliver appropriate management, for example restricting the fishing of certain species to protect the long-term future of their populations and to limit the impact of fishing on the estuarine environment. 

The IFCAs manage commercial fishing activities to ensure any effects on the Special Protection Area are within acceptable limits.  There are occasionally applications (to Defra) for several orders to establish private fisheries. 

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 3.4 The estuaries have healthy and resilient (wild) fish and shellfish populations and estuarine habitats and fish nursery areas are protected

Eastern IFCA periodically monitors the population of commercial shellfish in the estuaries. A limited amount of fish monitoring is undertaken in relation to Water Framework Directive requirements.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive and Water Framework Directive contain objectives for healthy fish and shellfish populations. Local IFCA byelaws can help towards achieving these targets; reference to these objectives and measures is necessary in the pursuit of the planning process.

Saltmarsh creeks within the estuarine ecosystems are critical habitats for young fish. Activities and works that could affect these habitats, such as saltmarsh restoration projects and structures, will take fish movements into account.

Unregulated fishing (netting) is difficult to quantify but is likely to have a disproportionately high effect on fish populations in fish nursery areas such as estuaries. At the time of writing, Eastern IFCA is assessing how to manage netting to reduce impacts on estuarine fish populations. 

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 3.5 Local marinas and boatyards have sustainable businesses, facilities and activities

Marinas and boatyards provide employment to the local area and are important to the local economy. 

They are hubs of human activity on the shoreline and are important partners in planning the beneficial use of dredged material, communicating messages on invasive non-native species and bird disturbance to boat owners, and promoting good water quality.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Theme 4:  Managing recreational activity

The estuaries are popular destinations for day visitors and tourists and people from near and far enjoy spending leisure time in the estuaries.  Walking, boating and cycling are especially popular activities. 

The need to encourage people to exercise is a high priority within the government’s health agenda.  Health and well-being are boosted through taking part in outdoor activities and enjoying inspiring views.  Public Rights of Way and other routes have an important role to play in ensuring that people have opportunities to exercise safely as well as having access to the countryside. 

There are 42 miles of promoted long distance paths around the Stour and Orwell estuaries including the Stour and Orwell Path (a National Trail) and the Essex Way and the roll-out of the England Coast Path is currently underway (2016).  See table of links in Appendix 4 for detailed information on the England Coast Path and its progress as it is rolled out.

Sailing is a popular pastime on the estuaries, with numerous sailing clubs and marinas dotted around the estuaries, which cater for sailing and motor yachts.  The estuaries are the second most important sailing area in the country.

Recreational Sea Angling (RSA) is popular in the estuaries, which have a reputation as excellent fisheries.  It makes a significant contribution to the local and national economy and this sector is recognised as a key stakeholder in inshore fisheries management.

Recreation also boosts the local economy as visitors spend money in local businesses. 

The demands of recreational activities can sometimes conflict with maintaining and enhancing the valued landscape and its tranquillity, the needs of local communities, allowing safe navigation, for boats and shipping to the ports, and protecting the bird and wildlife and natural habitats. 

Many people walk with dogs along the estuary paths and this presents issues of public health, responsible dog ownership and disturbance of birds by dogs roaming off leads on shores and intertidal areas.

The recreational pressure on the estuaries is expected to increase as a result of more housing being built in the area and the development of initiatives to stimulate tourism.  Theme 1 of this Strategy - ‘Integrated planning and sustainable development’ - is very relevant to recreation as it covers the assessment and mitigation of impacts on the Special Protection Area, including recreational pressures.

 

Objective 4.1 We understand the positive and negative effects of recreational activity, now and into the future

Link

Objective 4.2 Recreational activities are managed so they can be encouraged and enjoyed without adverse effect on the special qualities of the estuaries

Link

Objective 4.3 A well-informed public enjoy the estuaries without harming their special qualities and support beneficial activities

Link

 

Objective 4.4 Visitor facilities are improved, where necessary, to enable people to enjoy the estuaries

Link

 

 

Objective 4.1 We understand the positive and negative effects of recreational activity, now and into the future

It is important that we look at the benefits and the challenges of recreation activities now, and into the future, taking into account the increased housing provision in areas that may seem quite far from the estuary but will be within range of regular visitors.

To be able to promote appropriate recreation, and also protect the special interest of the estuaries, visitor management measures will need to be carefully planned in partnership and the Group is well placed to contribute to this.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 4.2 Recreational activities are managed so they can be encouraged and enjoyed without adverse effect on the special qualities of the estuaries

Recreational activity on the estuaries is expected to increase with the growth in housing development in nearby areas and with improvements to coastal access. If unmanaged this increased recreational use could impact upon fragile habitats and species resulting in the value of the estuaries being diminished.  It also risks the peace and tranquillity of this beautiful area, which is valued by residents and many visitors.

The disturbance of birds while they are attempting to breed, feed at low tide, or roost at high tide is a known and researched problem, especially in the winter months when the birds are most vulnerable and migratory birds are present.  Digging for bait and allowing dogs to roam off the lead have been found to be two of the most disturbing activities (see report ‘Disturbance to water birds wintering in the Stour & Orwell SPA’, 2007 in Appendix 4).

It is estimated that a quarter of households have a dog and whereas dog walking encourages healthy activity in humans the need to control dogs in the vicinity of birds needs to be communicated to dog owners.  Section 106 agreements and other similar mechanisms can be a source of funds for new management measures where these directly reduce the impacts of new developments.  It is important that these employ positive communication, provision of pleasant off-lead areas, clear indication of when and where dogs being on the lead is critical and reasons for this.

There are many activities on land and on the water that can cause varying levels of disturbance and there is a need to raise awareness of all forms of disturbance in order that the public can be encouraged to enjoy the estuaries without damaging their special features.

If codes of conduct and communications do not prove effective, it is sometimes necessary to monitor and control an activity, for example by means of a warden scheme or to introduce new measures such as licensing or bye-laws.  Voluntary codes and agreements are preferable as policing control measures is costly.  These can be promoted by the Group.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 4.3 A well-informed public enjoy the estuaries without harming their special qualities and support beneficial activities

Raising awareness of the issues will help to increase people’s understanding of the how important the estuaries are for wading birds.  In many cases people are not aware of the implications of their actions and the difference they could make if they altered their behaviour, sometimes in a very small way. 

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 Objective 4.4 Visitor facilities are improved, where necessary, to enable people to enjoy the estuaries

The Group will bring partners together to address issues of poor access, visitor facilities or damage to estuary areas from recreation.

New opportunities for public access will be encouraged where they enhance the visitor experience and do not impact negatively on the estuaries.  Good liaison with Natural England over the rollout of the England Coast Path will minimise further bird disturbance and provide more opportunities for people to enjoy the area.

The action points for this objective can be found in the relevant section of the Action Plan - link to Action Plan

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 The Action Plan

The actions flowing from each strategy theme above are brought together in one Action Plan, which is a working document that will change as actions are progressed. 

The Action Plan can be found here:  link to Action Plan

 

 Review

The Strategy will be reviewed annually and documentation will be provided in reports on the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB website.

A full review will be undertaken in 2019/20.

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 Appendices

 Appendix 1      Duties of public authorities in relation to Marine Protected Area (MPA) management

Follow link to document created by the MPA Steering Group (2015).

http://tinyurl.com/rolesMPA

 

  Appendix 2        Shoreline Management Plan Actions

Follow link to the current SMP table of actions.

http://tinyurl.com/SMPActions

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 Appendix 3        Glossary of Terms

Birds Directive (EU Birds Directive):

The abbreviated term for Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the Conservation of Wild Birds. This Directive aims to protect bird species within the EC through the conservation of populations of certain birds and the habitats used by these species.

CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy)

CIL is a fixed levy on new development, authorised by planning permission.

Coastal Habitat Management Plan (CHaMP):

These plans form an important link in the coastal planning process to ensure that future SMPs and Flood Management Strategies comply with the Habitats and Birds Directive.

Competent Authority

Competent national authorities are those entitled to give an authorisation or consent to a plan or project (from Managing Natura 2000).  The list of authorities which fall into the definition of competent authorities is set out in regulation 7 Habitats Regulations 2010.  A competent authority must exercise any of its functions which are relevant to marine conservation so as to secure compliance with the requirements of the Habitats Directive (reg. 9(3)).

European Marine Site:

A European Site (SPA or SAC), which consists of, or in so far as it consists of, marine areas.

European Site:

A classified Special Protection Area, designated Special Area of Conservation, site of Community Importance (selected as a candidate SAC, adopted by the European Commission but not yet designated), candidate Special Area of Conservation (in England only), or a site hosting a priority species in respect of which Article 5 of the Habitats Directive applies.

Flood Management Strategy:

A long-term plan developed for an estuary, which sets out the policy and objectives for flood defence taking into account a broad range of local interests and issues. 

Foreshore:

The part of the shore between high and low tide marks.

General Directions:

Powers that enable a harbour authority to lay down general rules for navigation. These are similar to byelaws, but often easier to achieve and amend, and therefore act as a useful mechanism for managing navigation and furthering safety.

EU Habitats Directive:

The abbreviated term of Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora. It is the aim of this Directive to promote the conservation of certain habitats and species within the European Union.

Habitats Regulations:

The common term for Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, which transpose the requirements of the Habitats Directive into national law and provide for the conservation of SACs and SPAs in Great Britain.

Haven Ports: Collective name for the Port of Felixstowe, Harwich International Port, Harwich Navyard, Mistley Quay and Forwarding Co. and ABP Port of Ipswich.

IFCA:

Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authorities: Local authorities established in 2011 to replace Sea Fisheries Committees; responsible for the management of fishing activities with a particular remit for the promotion of sustainable fisheries and conservation of marine protected areas

Intertidal:

Of or being the region between the high tide mark and the low tide mark.

Managed Realignment:

The realigning of a seawall landward or seaward at a designated site to allow the tide to inundate the site over each tidal cycle.

Mudflat:

Flat un-vegetated wetlands subject to periodic flooding and minor wave action.

Ramsar Convention (1971):

The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty, which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Relevant Authority:

These are specified authorities which have functions in relation to land or waters within or adjacent to that area or site. 

Regulation 6 Habitats Regulations 2010 provides a list of authorities, deemed to be ‘relevant’, which have functions in relation to land or waters within or adjacent to that area or site:

  • a nature conservation body;
  • a county council, county borough council, district council or London borough council;
  • the Environment Agency;
  • the Marine Management Organisation;
  • a water undertaker or sewerage undertaker, or an internal drainage board;
  • a navigation authority within the meaning of the Water Resources Act 1991(1);
  • a harbour authority within the meaning of the Harbours Act 1964(2);
  • a lighthouse authority;
  • an inshore fisheries and conservation authority established under Part 6 of the Marine Act (3) (management of inshore fisheries);
  • a local fisheries committee constituted under the Sea Fisheries Regulation Act 1966(4) or any authority exercising the powers of such a committee; and
  • a National Park authority.

Roost:

A place where birds regularly settle in order to sleep.

Saltmarsh:

A community of salt tolerant plants growing on intertidal mud in brackish conditions in sheltered estuaries and bays.

Shoreline Management Plan (SMP):

A plan used to decide flood and coastal defence policy for a geographic unit with identifiable coastal processes. The document brings together information pertaining to coastal issues such as flooding, erosion, coastal processes and human and environmental needs.

SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest): A designation given to sites considered to be of nature conservation and/or geological importance in a national context.

Special Protection Area (SPA):

A site designated under the Birds Directive by Member States, where appropriate steps are taken to protect the bird species and their habitats for which the Site is designated.

Sustainable (in the context of this Management Strategy):

The use of resources to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Water Framework Directive (WFD):

Directive 2000/60/EC. An EU Directive introducing a single system of water management through river basin management.

Wetland:

Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life. They occur where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where the land is covered by shallow water. 

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981:

The principal mechanism for the legislative protection of wildlife in Great Britain.

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 Appendix 4       Links to plans and documents

Coastal Access Scheme (the methodology for the England Coast Path) 

http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/5327964912746496?category=50007

England Coast Path 

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/england-coast-path-improving-public-access-to-the-coast

Coastal Concordat 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-coastal-concordat-for-england

AONB Management Plan & Proposed extension of the AONB to include the southern shore of the Stour (SCH AONB)    

http://www.suffolkcoastandheaths.org/about-us/

Site Improvement Plan (NE) 

http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/5591184856580096

Conservation objectives of the Special Protection Area and SPA citation  (NE)

 http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/6069687402102784

The (2001) Regulation 33 Conservation Advice - still current but under review.  (This is also a European Marine Site) (NE)

http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/3185994?category=3212324

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Details on the Ramsar (wetlands) designation (JNCC)

http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/pdf/RIS/UK11067.pdf

The Stour & Orwell Estuaries Scheme of Management 2010-15 (archived) (SOEMG)  

http://www.suffolkcoastandheaths.org/assets/Projects--Partnerships/Stour--Orwell/Stour-and-Orwell-Estuary-Management-Scheme.pdf

The Suffolk and Essex Flood Risk Strategies (SCC)

www.suffolk.gov.uk/flooding

Anglian River Basin Management Plan 

http://tinyurl.com/AngRBMP

Marine Policy Statement (MMO)

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-marine-policy-statement

Marine Planning&East Marine Plan (MMO)

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/marine-planning-in-england

National Planning Policy Framework

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/6077/2116950.pdf

National Policy Statement Ports 

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/3931/national-policy-statement-ports.pdf  

a. Essex and Suffolk Shoreline Management Plan

http://eacg.org.uk/smp8.asp

b. Actions overseen by this Group

http://tinyurl.com/SMPActions

Disturbance to water birds wintering in the Stour & Orwell SPA, 2007           

 

 Appendix 5      Terms of Reference of the Stour & Orwell Estuaries Management Group

Available at: http://tinyurl.com/SOMEGTOR

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  Appendix 6      Abbreviations of organisations

 

ABP

Associated British Ports – Port of Ipswich

AONB

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

AW

Anglian Water

BDC

Babergh District Council

CEFAS

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science

CLA

Country Land and Business Association

EA

Environment Agency

ECC

Essex County Council

EIFCA

Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority

EWT

Essex Wildlife Trust

HHA

Harwich Haven Authority

IBC

Ipswich Borough Council

IFCAs

Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities

KEIFCA

Kent & Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority

LPAs

Local Planning Authorities (IBC/ BDC/ TDC/ SCDC)

MMO

Marine Management Organisation

NE

Natural England

NFU

National Farmers Union

NT

National Trust

PCs

Parish Councils

PoF

Port of Felixstowe

Ports

Collectively, for this document: ABP, PoF, HHA

RSPB

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

RYA

Royal Yachting Association

SCC

Suffolk County Council

SCDC

Suffolk Coastal District Council

SEO

Suffolk Estuaries Officer

SWT

Suffolk Wildlife Trust

TCE

The Crown Estate

TDC

Tendring District Council

WTs

Wildlife Trusts (EWT, SWT)

 


The following are members of the Stour & Orwell Estuaries Management Group:

Relevant Authorities (as defined in The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, for the Stour and Orwell Estuaries European Marine Site):

Associated British Ports (Ipswich)

Anglian Water

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils

Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority

Environment Agency

Essex County Council

Harwich Haven Authority

Hutchison Ports (Port of Felixstowe & Harwich International Port)

Ipswich Borough Council

Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority

Natural England

Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils

Suffolk County Council

Tendring District Council 

Marine Management Organisation, and

Other organisations:

    Anglia Wildfowlers

    British Association for Shooting and Conservation

    Country Land and Business Association

    Essex Wildlife Trust          

    National Trust

    National Farmers Union

    RSPB          

    Royal Yachting Association (Eastern Region)

    Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty       

    Suffolk Wildlife Trust

    The Crown Estate

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