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Suffolk and Essex coastal ‘beauty’ area could be widened

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The existing area covers the beach and sand dunes in Walberswick, Suffolk

A coastal Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) could be extended to cover 10% more land under new plans.

Suffolk Coast and Heaths – one of the UK’s 46 AONBs – would cover an extra 15 sq miles (24 sq km) of Suffolk and Essex, offering “added protection”.

It would include Samford Valley, the Stour Estuary and Freston Brook Valley.

The proposals follow a government review of protected landscapes. A public consultation is to be held until 23 March.

According to Natural England, AONBs are designated to “protect the land to conserve and enhance its natural beauty”.

The organisation offers advice to local authorities on planned building work in these areas but, unlike national parks, there are no legal powers to prevent development.

Land owners have already been consulted about the plans and one farmer claimed added protection of the countryside would lead to “massive restrictions and discrimination” for their business.

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Sandlings heathland vegetation at Shottisham is part of the current AONB

Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB has not been extended since it was designated in 1970.

The current area stretches from Kessingland in the north to Shotley Peninsula in the south.

The AONB’s website describes it as “tranquil and unspoilt landscape including wildlife-rich estuaries, ancient heaths, windswept shingle beaches and historic towns and villages”.

Natural England said, if successful, the area would grow by the size of 3,800 international rugby pitches.

Chief executive Marian Spain said: “The extension of Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB would ensure magnificent estuary, valley and woodland views in this part of Suffolk and Essex.”

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If the area is extended, it would include parts of the Essex side of the Stour estuary

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