Boost for AONB expansion bid

Holy Island is in the Northumberland AONB. Picture by Jane Coltman
Holy Island is in the Northumberland AONB. Picture by Jane Coltman

A bid to extend the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has received a timely boost.

The Government recently announced that a review will be carried out into the nation’s National Parks and AONBs.

An independent panel, led by writer Julian Glover, will look at how these landscapes meet people’s needs in the 21st century, including whether there is scope for the current network of 34 AONBs and 10 National Parks to expand.

Northumberland County Council’s AONB officer, David Feige, said: “The timing is spot-on for our requirements is all I can say.”

This is because the announcement of the review comes in the wake of calls to investigate whether the Northumberland Coast AONB can be expanded to cover more of the county’s coastline.

At the January meeting of the council’s communities and place committee, it was agreed to look into the possibility of extending the AONB – which currently covers the stretch from Spittal down to the Coquet estuary – further south, perhaps as far as Blyth.

The council’s decision-making cabinet subsequently agreed that the committee be tasked with investigating the review process and potential need to amend the existing boundary.

Mr Feige was due to present a report to last Friday’s (June 8) meeting which outlined the rather complicated process involved for a boundary review, which would be taken forward by Natural England.

However, this has now been ‘overtaken by events’ and the AONB team will engage fully with the review in a bid to take the possible extension further.

Coun Brian Gallacher said: “I feel strongly that we have a beautiful coastline all the way down the county.”

Mr Feige’s briefing had raised some concerns though, as the last landscape assessment for the area in question was undertaken in 2007 and this concluded that other than the beach and dunes themselves, the Druridge Bay area would not meet the criteria for a nationally important landscape.

‘This was partly due to the presence of active surface mines towards the western edge of the area, and partly because the legacy of earlier surface mining had left a rather simplistic and immature landscape across much of the area,’ the report states.

‘Depending on the Secretary of State’s forthcoming decision about the proposed Highthorn surface mine, the first of these issues may now be resolved. However, the legacy of rather poor quality restorations is likely to be an ongoing issue.’

Coun Wendy Pattison pointed out that the stretch from Berwick to the border should also be considered.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service