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Suffolk AONB extended

Words: Laura Edgar
Southwold, Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB / iStock-161712034

The Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is to be increased in size, the government has confirmed.

It will expand by 38 square kilometres, covering river valleys, ancient woodland, reed beds, estuaries and beaches. The area includes the Stour estuary, northern estuary valley slopes at Branthan, the majority of the southern estuary valley slopes, and the Freston Brook Valley.

The new area will benefit from AONB guidance and advice, as well as the funding made available to designated landscapes so they can deliver their statutory purpose. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) also affords them further protection.

According to the government, the expansion will bring “significant” benefits to the local area, with local businesses able to promote the area as an AONB and access grants, including for sustainable tourism.

In September 2019, the Landscape Review concluded that the stature of national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) should be strengthened in the planning system – with AONBs given statutory consultee status.

Led by writer and journalist Julian Glover, the review also recommended that, where appropriate, AONBs should be supported to work within local plans for their areas, prepared in conjunction with local authorities.

George Eustice, environment secretary, commented:  “The Suffolk Coast and Heaths is a landscape rich in history and a source of inspiration to countless artists, writers and musicians, and these extensions are a worthy addition especially during this unprecedented time, when many of us are connecting with nature more than ever before. This milestone marks a significant step towards putting our ambitious 25 year environment plan to leave the environment in a better state than we found it into action.”

As the statutory agency for the natural environment, Natural Englan carried out “thorough technical analysis and extensive consultation,” before submitting the proposed extensions to the government for consideration.

Councillor David Wood, chairman of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB Partnership, welcomed the expansion. “The AONB partnership, made up of public, private and third sector organisations, has had an aspiration to bring the benefits of the designation to a wider area for over 20 years.

“Locally we have always known that the area identified in the Order was outstanding, and with this news we can be confident that the natural beauty of the area will be conserved and enhanced for future generations.”

Image credit | iStock