Norfolk coast conservation plans an 'economic disaster'

Residents living on the Norfolk coast are concerned plans to introduce Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) could hit tourism and the local economy.

Natural England wants to create six restricted areas, which will mean no access for people. Two are planned for the popular resort of Blakeney.

The zones could end local fishing, seal trips and reduce access for walkers.

"To introduce the no go areas is an economic disaster," said North Norfolk District Council's Angie Fitch-Tillett.

"Blakeney is a tourism hot-spot and supports a wide variety of cottage industries which it would be impossible to replace.

"We've already identified the ecological importance of these areas and have enhanced them to ensure an eco-toursim balance.

"We were trailblazer for the rest of the country and I feel more work should be done to identify a less emotive site that wouldn't be so economically disastrous," added Mrs Fitch-Tillett, the council's portfolio holder for the coast.

Fisherman Willie Weston has been working out of Blakeney for more than 40 years.

He said: "As far as I'm concerned they'll never stop me. I will carry on doing what I'm doing - if they have to lock me away they will, the important thing is to make sure to fight this for my son".

In a statement Natural England said: "The reference areas would be sites set aside for marine life to exist without the impact of human activities."

It added that the "sites would be highly protected and relatively small in area".

'It's ridiculous'

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb is to raise concerns about the MCZ proposals with environment minister Richard Benyon in March.

Mr Lamb said: "It affects traditional ways of operating in the area. It affects walkers, samphire pickers, bait diggers - one guy has contacted me to say that he will lose his work if these proposal proceed - it's ridiculous.

"The key area we're talking about they [Natural England] already describe as being favourable in conservation terms so I don't think there's any case for this.

"There is already conservation provision in place for this area and we should not be interfering with activities that have gone on for hundreds of years."

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