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Conservation plans to protect coasts

PUBLISHED: 09:28 27 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:45 03 July 2010

WILDLIFE and vital habitats could be protected under proposals for three new marine conservation areas off the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts.

A three-month consultation is launched today about which sites should be singled for special protection.

WILDLIFE and vital habitats could be protected under proposals for three new marine conservation areas off the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts.

A three-month consultation is launched today about which sites should be singled for special protection.

A total of 12 new marine conservation sites around the country have been proposed including three sections of Norfolk and Suffolk's coastline and offshore areas.

The Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge area of the Outer Wash has been selected as a possible Special Area of Conservation (SAC) - intended to maintain biodiversity. The area is know for its sandbanks and ross worm reefs - colonies built by billions of worms using sand and shell fragments.

To the north east of the county, the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton area could gain the same protection thanks to its sandbanks.

And areas off Great Yarmouth's coast, stretching southwards, could become part of an Outer Thames Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA) due to the red-throated divers which spend their winters there.

Marcus Yeo, managing director of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), which has drawn up the proposals together with Natural England, said: “This will help these sites to be recognised as ones that fully deserve their high profile and consequent protection.”

The sites have been identified in order to help the UK meet the requirements of two European directives which seek to provide a network, known as Natura 2000, of protected areas for threatened wildlife and habitats.

Last night marine specialists from the Wildlife Trusts, the largest UK voluntary organisation dedicated to conserving the UK's habitats and species, welcomed the proposals.

A spokesman said: “The designation of new European marine sites is an extremely important step in the development of an ecologically coherent and well managed network of marine protected areas throughout UK seas.”

But Natural England and JNCC are mindful that the sites could impact on marine industries like fishing, wind farms, sand and gravel extraction and the oil and gas industries.

They are asking for feedback over the next three months ahead of the proposals being submitted to government.

Ministers will then consider the plans and decide which recommendations to submit to the European Commission in August 2010 for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network.

Drop-in days will be held in Norfolk during the consultation period, which runs until February 26, giving people a chance to discuss the sites.

Details of the proposals can be viewed on Natural England's website - www.naturalengland.org.uk.

To make a formal comment email natura2000.consultation@naturalengland.org.uk.

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