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West Norfolk councillors urged to back Fen bid for UNESCO status

Part of West Norfolk could be given international environmental status under proposals which are due to go before councillors later today.

Southern areas of the borough are included in an application to UNESCO for Biosphere Reserve status for the Fens.

West Norfolk Council is being asked to support the proposal and the issue will go before its environment and community panel this afternoon.

Black-winged stilts on the Ouse Washes. (46329759)
Black-winged stilts on the Ouse Washes. (46329759)

A report by officers, published ahead of the meeting, said: “Biosphere Reserve status is awarded by UNESCO to unique and valuable landscapes.

“The stated aims of biospheres are to connect people, economies, and nature to secure a future where all can thrive, meeting the needs of current and future residents and working towards providing secure and happy futures for all.

“Further, that biospheres aim to improve the natural environment, using new ideas, science, and technology to explore new ways of living every day in ways that solve global challenges.”

The report recommends that the council, which is represented on the steering group leading the Biosphere bid, expresses in principle support for the plan.

Downham is part of the area covered by the designation proposal, which is divided into core, buffer and transition zones.

The report said the core areas are sites such as the Ouse Washes and Wicken Fen, which already enjoy statutory protections.

Buffer zones lie around the core areas while the transition zones include the areas where most people live.

The report said: “Activities will focus on ensuring that resident needs (housing, jobs, recreation and so on) are sustainable and, if possible, benefit wildlife and the environment.”

An application for the designation is due to be submitted this spring with a decision expected either late next year or early in 2023.

The report concluded: “Designation of The Fens as a Biosphere would raise the profile of the area bringing economic, social and environmental benefits to this part of the borough at no financial cost to the council.

“At this stage the support looked for is ‘in principle’ only. It is considered that it would be appropriate to give this ‘in principle’ support, particularly as the council is represented on the steering group, while further details of the project and its geography are established.”

The panel meeting will take place at 3pm today and will be streamed via the council’s YouTube channel.

Following the session, the issue will go to the council’s ruling cabinet at a later date for consideration.

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