AONB boundary extension considered.
For many years there has been a desire amongst a partnership of organisations to extend the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB boundary to include the southern shore of the Stour Estuary. On 4th December 2013 Natural England’s Board agreed to start a formal process to consider the request.
Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB Chairman Cllr David Wood said: ‘This is great news for the special landscape and economy of the south side of the Stour estuary. We started the process to designate the area as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty some 20 years ago. This process will include full consultation with the many interests in the area. The current AONB is worth £234m per annum to the local economy. If the area does achieve AONB status it will ensure that the special landscape and its wildlife are protected for all.’
The decision by Natural England’s board follows evidence submitted to them over many years culminating in an Evidence and Evaluation study submitted earlier this year. The report noted the quality of the landscape on the southern shore of the Stour estuary and its links to the existing AONB.
A candidate area has been identified of 36 km2 comprising tidal estuary, coastal farmland and woodland along the southern edge of the Stour estuary.
If designated the area would be conserved for the nation as a special place. It would not mean the end of development or farming practices but ensure that all development in the area met the AONB criteria of conserving and enhancing a special place.
Howard Davies, CEO of the National Association for AONBs (NAAONB) said: “The NAAONB welcomes Natural England’s interest in boundary reviews and is mindful of the value the AONB designation can bring, both locally and nationally”
The formal process will include an assessment to determine if the area meets the statutory criteria of an AONB; undertake regulatory assessments; a full consultation and identifying an AONB boundary before a variation order is submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation.