Following the Government's recent response to the Glover Review of Protected Landscapes, we are publishing three guest blogs from different National Parks and AONBs looking at their support for nature. In our third blog, Simon Amstutz, AONB Manager, looks at how the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is helping nature thrive ...

The Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) welcomed the proposal in the Government commissioned Glover review of National Parks and AONBs in 2019 that stated:  

National Landscapes [Glover term recommended to be used for AONBs in the future] should have a renewed mission to recover and enhance nature 

The Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB was quick to sign up to the Colchester Declaration, an AONB national network offer to Government to redress declines in species and habitats within the context of a wider response to climate change. 

 Locally the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB reallocated its resources and created a new AONB Nature Recovery Officer post. This promoted immediate action to work with local partners to develop an AONB Nature Recovery Plan for the whole 441kmof the nationally designated area. An iconic species was chosen, the Redshank, to focus public attention on the efforts to undertake nature recovery in the AONB. 

Alongside the development of the AONB Nature Recovery Plan the AONB team has been working to deliver activity to support nature recovery. It has secured some small scale funding to deliver wildlife projects for species including the Redshank, Swift and Stag Beetle.  

At a landscape scale the AONB team has led a project, which includes partners from the RSPB, the National Trust, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and local landowners, that has secured funding from the Landscape Enhancement Initiative. This scheme, funded by Ofgem, is to mitigate the impact of National Grid infrastructure in designated landscapes. In 2021 it awarded grants for over £250,000 across 2 projects in the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB for work to enhance wildlife habitat, improve access (including an extension to a hide and new easy access path) and new hedgerow and woodland underplanting.  

The AONB team consider that work to deliver nature recovery needs to be at a landscape scale. AONBs are well placed to deliver on nature recovery at this scale given their area based nature, track record of working in partnership and the renewed mission suggested in Glover review.  

Many AONBs have a long and distinguished history on delivering projects for nature. Locally the AONB team has delivered projects through its own direct labour, and its fantastic volunteers including those for the native black poplar, water vole and bats.  

 For wildlife habitat restoration the AONB team has secured significant funding (for example from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, delivery of Section 106 agreements and its own Sustainable Development Fund) for schemes that benefit many of the defined natural heritage features that make up the natural beauty of the AONB.  

 At the time of writing, news of a Farming in Protected Landscapes programme, part of revisions to countryside stewardship, is eagerly anticipated. The programme has the stated aim: 

for farmers and other land managers to make improvements to the natural  environment 

The programme will offer further opportunities for AONBs to work in partnership with the environment sector and landowners to deliver projects that will support nature recovery. Watch this space…