COUNTRYSIDE between Manningtree and Parkeston has been awarded special status by the Government after decades of hard-fought campaigning.

Plans to significantly expand the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) were confirmed by officials today (Tuesday).

The move sees the AONB expanded by 38 square kilometres, the first time an AONB has been extended since the nearby Dedham Vale in 1991.

Now the area includes the south of the River Stour, including the waterfront from Manningtree right along to the edge of Parkeston, including Mistley, Bradfield and Wrabness.

The northern banks of the River Stour, in Suffolk, already had the designation and campaigners have pressed for it to be extended to Essex for decades.

The expansion will enable businesses and tourist sites to promote the area as an AONB and access relevant grants.

David Wood, chairman of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB Partnership, said: “We are delighted that this order has been confirmed.

“The AONB partnership, made up of public private and third sector organisations, has had an aspiration to bring the benefits of the designation to a wider area for over 20 years.

“Locally we have always known that the area identified in the order was outstanding, and with this news we can be confident that the natural beauty of the area will be conserved and enhanced for future generations.”

Natural England chairman Tony Juniper said: “We welcome this magnificent milestone and firmly believe in the benefits this extension to the AONB will bring – for the environment, the economy and the many people who will enjoy in perpetuity the stunning landscapes and natural treasures found here.

“We look forward to working with partners in the AONBs to create more, bigger, better and connected natural areas, where people live, work and visit, as part of a truly green recovery from coronavirus.”