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Natural England status report

Natural England have produced the following report

As government's adviser, Natural England's purpose is "to ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced and managed for the benefit of present and future generations'. There are indications that the condition of the North Norfolk coast's natural environment is declining through a number of increasing pressures. Natural England have undertaken this evidence-based review assessing the condition at the coastal landscape scale. This is a new and different approach from site based monitoring.

The report reaffirms why people value the North Norfolk coast, identifies the benefits provided by the coast's natural environment (natural capital) and the service and goods it provides (ecosystem services). The current condition and risks to the coast's natural environment, looking at key habitats, species, and assemblages and finally the drivers of change on this coast, looking at how various pressures are impacting on this coastal landscape

Report summary
There are indications that the condition of the North Norfolk Coast's (NNC) natural environment is declining as a result of numerous pressures. The State of the North Norfolk Coast report has taken a holistic approach to assessing the condition of the coast's natural environment, collating information on:

  • Why people value the NNC? – including the results of a survey carried out to inform this report.
  • The resources of the coast's natural environment (Natural Capital) and the service and goods it provides (Ecosystem Services)
  • The condition and risks to the coast's natural environment, looking at key habitats, species, and assemblages.
  • The drivers of change on the coast, looking at how issues are impacting on and degrading the coast's natural environment.

Informed by Natural England's current conservation strategy and Defra's 25 year Plan for the Environment, this report is a step away from small site 'unit' based assessment of condition focused on protected features.
The NNC is one of the largest expanses of undeveloped coastal habitat of its type in Europe. It supports a wealth of wildlife of national and international importance reflected by the designation across 66% of the area as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA), and a Ramsar wetland of global significance. It is a remote, open and dynamic coastal landscape, with a long history of human management and settlement, which contribute to a special and culturally important landscape as recognised by being part of the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and North Norfolk Heritage Coast.

A small public survey was carried out by Natural England to support and inform this report. In the survey 97% of respondents said the coast was either important or very important to them, citing wildlife, scenic beauty, and remoteness and tranquillity as the qualities they most valued about the coast. Respondents strongly identified the wildlife of the NNC as important for the areas landscape, economy, and to a lesser extent culture.

The total area of the NNC, as defined in this report, is 6,244 hectares, and is based on the NNC National Character Area. The main feature covering 32% of the area is littoral sediment including saltmarsh, mudflat and saline lagoons. Freshwater habitats such as coastal floodplain and grazing marsh, and reedbeds cover 27% of the area. A further 15% is arable land and 13% is sand dunes and shingle. Semi-natural grassland makes up 5% of the area, woodlands 3%, and soft cliffs less than 1%. Outside of the boundary but included in the Natural Capital assessment in the report is a large marine area supporting reefs, sand banks and mudflats. All these habitats support a diversity of wildlife of national and international importance, including breeding and wintering bird assemblages, marine communities, Invertebrate assemblages, plant, lichen, and fungi assemblages.