More than 60 years after laws were passed to protect Britain's landscapes the UK Government and devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland need to extend the same protection to the UK's seascapes, campaign groups are urging.
Phil Dyke, coast and marine adviser at the National Trust, said: "As an Island nation it does seem strange that it's taken us more than six decades to start thinking about how we protect our seascapes, these wonderful yet fragile places that mean so much to people."
The UK Marine Policy Statement heralds the beginning of the development of a marine planning system across the UK however while seascapes are mentioned campaign groups fear that they are not given the prominence they deserve and so they have come together to launch a new manifesto for coasts and seascapes.
The manifesto for coasts and seascapes is supported by the National Trust, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW), Campaign for National Parks, the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Europarc Atlantic Isles.
Neil Sinden, policy and campaigns director of the CPRE said: "Our marine area is becoming increasingly busy, with more shipping, military training, fisheries, energy production, port development and aggregate extraction. This is placing pressure on what's left of the beauty and tranquillity of our coasts which are such an important part of our quality of life and national identity. That's why we need a robust marine planning system that extends the protection that we have for our landscapes to our seascapes."
Three of the key areas that the manifesto focuses on in terms of early action by all levels of Government are to:
- Recognise coasts and seascapes as a key resource in the marine environment.
- Identify the character and distinctiveness of the coastline and seascapes.
- Identify areas that are of national importance and a means by which they can be conserved by the planning process.
In addition to the fundamental contribution to the economy and culture of Britain's coastal communities, research by the National Trust found that two thirds of Britons said that visiting the coast is important to their quality of life.
Current planning protection and designations only apply to land stopping at the low-tide mark, leaving seascapes vulnerable to pressures from human activities. Seascapes are, in just the same way as energy production, port activities and aggregates extraction, a key resource of the marine environment. The challenge is to ensure seascapes are safeguarded, linking their protection with that offered to adjacent areas of coast for the benefit of future generations. The new system of marine planning across the UK provides this opportunity.
Mr Dyke added: "As a nation we clearly love the coast. We have to seize this chance to ensure a robust and sensible planning approach to one of the most precious and delicate resources we have. We should become a world leader in protecting our coastal and marine natural and cultural heritage for future generations."