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Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty bring in £270m to tourism sector

PUBLISHED: 09:10 15 August 2018 | UPDATED: 09:31 15 August 2018

Constable Country on the Essex Suffolk border    Picture: Barry Pullen

Constable Country on the Essex Suffolk border Picture: Barry Pullen

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The economic value of our natural landscapes has been underlined by new figures which show Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in Suffolk and north Essex are worth over £270m to the tourism sector.

Heathland at Dunwich Heath  Picture: National Trust/Justin MinnsHeathland at Dunwich Heath Picture: National Trust/Justin Minns

Dedham Vale and Suffolk Coast & Heaths Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are nationally recognised as some of England’s finest landscapes and a draw to visitors - and the latest research shows a significant increase in the value of people coming on day-trips and staying overnight to enjoy quality food, drink and attractions in the locations.

Data compiled by Destination Research on behalf of the AONBs puts the total value of tourism in the Dedham Vale AONB, which incorporates the area known as ‘Constable Country’, at £62million for 2017, up 13.3% compared with the last survey in 2015.

Over in the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB, which takes in RSPB Minsmere and the National Trust’s Dunwich Heath, there was an increase in tourism income of 6.2% to over £210million during the same period.

Across both AONBs, the data shows more than 6,000 people are employed in the visitor economy - an increase of more than 440 full-time equivalent positions in two years.

Constable Country Picture: Barry PullenConstable Country Picture: Barry Pullen

However, Suffolk county councillor David Wood, who is chair of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB Partnership, emphasised that the aim is to encourage sustainable growth that does not degrade the natural beauty that attracts visitors in the first place.

“It’s not news to those of us who live in and work in the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty that our visitors really enjoy our countryside and wildlife,” he said.

“We aim to balance economic increase of more visitors with how they behave when they visit, so we emphasise low impact ways to enjoy the area, and regularly produce free walking and cycling guides to the areas with the help of sponsorship from visitor businesses.”

The latest findings come in the wake of the East Anglian Daily Times’ ‘Suffolk Says 2018’ survey where people voted Suffolk’s countryside and wildlife as the best thing about living in the county.

Standing by the Stour at Cattawade (from left) Nigel Chapman (chair of the Dedham Vale AONB Joint Advisory Committee), David Wood, chair of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB Partnership and AONB Manager, Simon Amstutz.   Picture: Catherine SmithStanding by the Stour at Cattawade (from left) Nigel Chapman (chair of the Dedham Vale AONB Joint Advisory Committee), David Wood, chair of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB Partnership and AONB Manager, Simon Amstutz. Picture: Catherine Smith

Visit Suffolk also recently published figures that show that tourism is now worth over £2bn to the county as a whole with an increase in year-round trips and more spend per visit.

AONB Manager, Simon Amstutz, added:“These figures really demonstrate the worth of our nationally protected landscapes and we will carry on working with local businesses to ensure that they continue to play an important part in our economy and our landscape conservation and enhancement for the future”.

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