Edi­tor’s com­ment

EADT Suffolk - - EDITOR’S COMMENT - JAYNE LINDILL, Edi­tor, EADT Suf­folk jayne.lindill@eadt.co.uk

If you’ve spent any time in the Suf­folk coun­try­side this sum­mer it will come as no sur­prise that, in a re­cent East Anglian Daily Times Suf­folk Says 2018 sur­vey, peo­ple voted coun­try­side and wildlife as the best thing about liv­ing in the county. What’s the bet­ting it’s also one of the main rea­sons peo­ple come here for a short break or longer hol­i­day?

The eco­nomic value of the re­gion’s nat­u­ral land­scapes has been un­der­lined by new fig­ures which show Ar­eas of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty (AONBs) in Suf­folk and north Es­sex are worth over £270 mil­lion to the tourism sec­tor. Ded­ham Vale and Suf­folk Coast & Heaths Ar­eas of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty are na­tion­ally recog­nised as some of Eng­land’s finest land­scapes, and the lat­est re­search shows a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the value of peo­ple com­ing on day-trips and stay­ing overnight to en­joy qual­ity food, drink and lo­cal at­trac­tions.

The AONB re­search puts the to­tal value of tourism in 2017 in Suf­folk Coast & Heaths AONB – which takes in RSPB Mins­mere and the Na­tional Trust’s Dun­wich Heath – at more than £210 mil­lion, an in­crease in tourism in­come of 6.2 per cent com­pared with the last sur­vey in 2015. In the Ded­ham Vale AONB, which in­cor­po­rates Con­sta­ble Coun­try, the value is £62 mil­lion, up 13.3 per cent. Across both AONBs, the data shows more than 6,000 peo­ple are em­ployed in the vis­i­tor econ­omy, an in­crease of more than 440 full-time equiv­a­lent po­si­tions in two years. Visit Suf­folk also re­cently pub­lished fig­ures that show tourism is now worth over £2 bil­lion to the county, with an in­crease in year-round trips and more spend per visit. The fig­ures re­ally demon­strate the worth of our na­tion­ally pro­tected land­scapes and it’s all very wel­come news for our lo­cal econ­omy. But it’s also good to hear Suf­folk county coun­cil­lor David Wood, chair of the Suf­folk Coast & Heaths AONB Part­ner­ship, stress that the aim is to en­cour­age sus­tain­able growth in tourism with­out de­grad­ing the nat­u­ral beauty that at­tracts vis­i­tors in the first place.

If I seem to write about this a lot it’s prob­a­bly be­cause I be­lieve it’s one of the most press­ing is­sues for our county. Some might say we’ve been spoiled com­pared to some parts of Bri­tain. Our indige­nous pop­u­la­tion is rel­a­tively sparse and is boosted by tourists who have dis­cov­ered the nu­mer­ous at­trac­tions of the county only com­par­a­tively re­cently. But doesn’t that give us ev­ery rea­son to en­sure that we pro­tect, con­serve and en­hance our nat­u­ral as­sets? Shouldn’t we learn from oth­ers’ ex­pe­ri­ence?

Of course, tourism is not the only threat to our nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. In­creas­ing de­vel­op­ment of the green fringes around mar­ket towns, vil­lages and coastal re­sorts is chang­ing the ru­ral na­ture of the county. We are in­creas­ingly ur­banised. And per­haps hav­ing ar­eas that are pro­tected by virtue of their out­stand­ing nat­u­ral beauty makes us think it won’t mat­ter if we build on ev­ery green space in be­tween. I hope not - that doesn’t sound par­tic­u­larly sus­tain­able – or de­sir­able to me.

Haver­gate Is­land, in the Suf­folk Coasts & Heaths Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty

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