Policing fears over ‘no-go’ north Norfolk marine conservation areas affecting Blakeney, Morston, Cley, Holme-next-the-Sea coastline and sea off Cromer
Controversial 'no-go' marine conservation areas in north Norfolk could place a burden on already-stretched police resources, coastal users heard last night.
Inspector Mike Brown warned that enforcing a humans-keep-off rule for proposed government Reference Areas (RAs) could see local Wildlife Crime Officer PC Jason Pegden having to 'take on the community where he is based'.
'If you create something that isn't in the interests of the local community, you will get public disobedience and it's us who ultimately have to resolve the situation.
'We are very, very busy and very short staffed,' Insp Brown told a meeting in Blakeney between government advisors Natural England and concerned representatives from groups including fishermen, boat users and parish councillors.
Queries over who would enforce RAs were repeatedly raised among questions fired at Natural England's Hester Clack during the meeting, hosted by Blakeney Parish Council.
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Ms Clack said public bodies, including the Marine Management Organisation and local authorities, would be responsible for managing the sites but the government hoped the public would voluntarily observe restrictions.
Five small RAs are recommended for sites at Blakeney, Morston, Cley, Holme-next-the-Sea and the sea off Cromer giving scientists a chance to study habitats 'unimpacted by damaging human activities'.
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They are part of a wider project to establish Marine Conservation Zones, creating a national network of protected areas.
But many in the Blakeney audience felt the north Norfolk coast was already well protected.
Six conservation designations covering Blakeney Harbour include its status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation.
Critics also wanted to know which activities would be banned and which restricted.
Godfrey Sayers, chairman of Wiveton Parish Council, said one of his major frustrations was Natural England's refusal to accept humans as a part of the landscape.
Traditions such as collecting samphire had remained unchanged for thousands of years.
'They haven't really grasped how intricately the processes of the longshore economy are bound up with the natural environment. There is no 'impact',' said Mr Sayers.
A suggestion by John Sizer, Norfolk Coast Property Manager with the National Trust, that the Blakeney Area Advisory Group be reformed to look at possible acceptable options meeting the government's criteria, was agreed.
Ms Clack said it would be helpful if those who used the coast could come up with alternative RA sites which would not interfere with their activities.
A public consultation on the project is expected next summer.