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Exclusion Zones in Blakeney Harbour

 

Boats in Blakeney harbour

In spite of having several meetings with Natural England and, recently, Defra, these two organisations are still wishing to designate two parts of Blakeney Harbour as ‘Reference Areas’ (RAs) where all human activity could be stopped.

The largest of these (RA4) is an area a kilometre square occupying about half the marsh between Blakeney and Morston, which includes parts of Agar Creek, the Pilot’s Path and a public bridleway where sheep used to be driven onto the marsh for grazing, and extends into the navigable channel leading from Blakeney to the main harbour.

These Reference Areas are not there to preserve any threatened species, but simply to provide a reference against which other areas of salt marsh can be compared.   In order to do this, these organisations can prevent any human activities deemed by them to be potentially damaging to the ‘reference’ condition of the marsh.   They list these activities as including anchoring/mooring, navigation, boating, swimming, walking, wildlife observation and other recreational pursuits that would include dog walking and wildfowling.   All extractive activities would be totally banned such as samphire picking, bait digging and cockle collecting.   These are all activities that have taken place in the harbour for centuries without any damage to the environment, being small scale and sustainable.

Your Parish Council, and over twenty other organisations that could be affected by these proposals, have been fighting to have the RAs proposed for Blakeney Harbour dropped before the public consultation due to take place at the end of the year.

On 18th July Natural England will be publishing, on its website, its advice to Defra on all the proposed Marine Conservation Zones and Reference Areas, which will then submit this to the Minister, Richard Benyon, for him to make his selection of the ones to go forward “in the first phase”.   The Council feels that, unless the proposed RA4 is dropped completely, the risk to our harbour could continue into future phases.

The Parish Council will be continuing its efforts to raise awareness of this issue but, in the meanwhile, if you wish to see unhindered access to Blakeney Harbour preserved, please write to Richard Benyon MP, Minister for the Natural Environment at: House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA, or to our MP, Norman Lamb, at the same address.

 

Tony Faulkner (Chairman of Blakeney Parish Council)

 

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