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Tourism hope for Fens Biosphere proposal




A bid to secure international environmental recognition for part of West Norfolk could help to boost the area’s tourism industry, a council committee has heard.

Around 20 parishes in the south of the borough are part of the area covered by the application for UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status to be granted to the Fens.

And the idea was warmly welcomed by members who attended a presentation to West Norfolk Council’s environment and community panel on Tuesday afternoon.

The Ouse Washes, also known as the Hundred Foot Washes, are a small, but very important, part of the flat low-lying peat fen lands in East Anglia. The Washes occupy a 21 mile long strip of land through which the waters of the Great Ouse River flow in various man-made channels en-route to the sea. (45283603)
The Ouse Washes, also known as the Hundred Foot Washes, are a small, but very important, part of the flat low-lying peat fen lands in East Anglia. The Washes occupy a 21 mile long strip of land through which the waters of the Great Ouse River flow in various man-made channels en-route to the sea. (45283603)

Independent Jo Rust said the proposal was “really exciting”, while the panel’s Conservative chairman, Colin Sampson, said the question was “how quickly we can say yes, keep going”.

And the council’s deputy leader, Elizabeth Nockolds, said the designation could encourage more holidaymakers to come to the area in future.

She said: “I’ve always felt the Fens should be promoted more.

“We’re all wanting open space and to walk in fresh air and the Fens are perfect for this.”

Climate change portfolio holder Paul Kunes said it was a “fantastic project”, but voiced concern about whether some land currently used for agriculture could be lost as part of the project.

And the Green Party’s Michael de Whalley said: “I can do nothing but commend this project. It’s a very bold project and I wish it every success.”

There are currently more than 700 recognised Biosphere areas in 129 countries around the world, including several in the UK, such as the Brighton and Lewes Downs, the Isle of Man, the Isle of Wight and North Devon.

Although much of the Fens Biosphere area is based in Cambridgeshire, it also stretches into Suffolk and Lincolnshire, as well as Norfolk.

The area is split into core zones, such as the Ouse Washes, buffer zones around the core sites and transition zones around the main settlements such as Downham.

Principal planner Peter Jermany said the final geography of the application area was still to be finalised.

And panel member Alexandra Kemp called for the area to be extended so it covered more of the River Great Ouse.

The council, which is represented on the steering group developing the proposal, is being asked to provide “in principle” support for the scheme.

The idea is due to be considered next by the borough council’s ruling cabinet on May 10.

A formal application is due to be submitted shortly and it is hoped that a decision will be reached either late next year or early in 2023.



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