Campaigners are vowing to “fight on” after an influential report failed to recommend dropping a controversial conservation zone from government plans.

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The report by Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) recommended all of the 127 proposed UK marine conservation zones (MCZs) should go forward to public consultation.

They include an area of Blakeney Marshes, which has prompted strong opposition, including a petition signed by 1,185 people in and around the village.

Dr Marie Strong, county councillor for the Wells division, said she was “encouraged” that Natural England had included acknowledgement of the opposition.

She said: “At least they have recognised that local people are not happy. I’m reassured by that. But people do not want it to go forward to consultation. It will be distressing for them.

“People will throw their hearts and souls into opposing it throughout the consultation period. Natural England and the JNCC are not asking for opinion, but they will certainly get plenty of it from people in and around Blakeney.”

The project includes recommendations for several reference areas (RAs) to protect vulnerable shoreline habitats and assess how they would fare without the impact of human intervention.

One of these “no-go” areas covers a square kilometre of inter-tidal mudflats, salt marshes and sand dunes at Blakeney – an area historically used by wildfowlers, bait diggers and samphire pickers, who fear their traditional lifestyles and industries could be at risk.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “There’s an awful lot of time and money being spent on a process that is completely flawed. They ought to accept the reality and not proceed with this.”

The joint report will go to environment minister Richard Benyon, who will decide whether any or all of the recommended zones will go ahead in 2013.

Dr Strong said Mr Benyon already knew the “strength of feeling”, as he had been given a copy of the petition.




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