Eagle plans for Suffolk coast postponed

CONTROVERSIAL plans to release sea eagles on the Suffolk coast have been postponed for a year to allow a full consultation, it has emerged today.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to release sea eagles on the Suffolk coast will not go ahead this year to allow more time for consultation, it has emerged.

Livestock farmers feared the proposals - a joint venture by Natural England and the RSPB - would damage their livelihoods.

They even went as far as putting signs bearing the slogan “Say No To Sea Eagles” up along main roads, including the A12 south of Lowestoft and the A146 near Beccles.

But yesterday conservation chiefs confirmed they would continue to gather evidence during the rest of this year - entering into a formal consultation with farmers and landowners and other interested parties in the second half of 2010.

Natural England had considered introducing the birds, also known as white tailed eagles, to north Norfolk, but after a wave of anger from farmers, the government body announced in September last year that it had changed the proposals back to the original idea of locating the eagles on the Suffolk coast.

Alex Dinsdale� NFU East Anglia countryside adviser, said: “Members were expressing increasing concern about the costs involved with this project and the potential impact the sea eagle could have on local wildlife and livestock farm businesses.

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“The project seemed to be rushing forward without proper consultation with those most likely to be affected. We're pleased that the brakes have now been applied and we look forward to meeting Natural England at the earliest opportunity to take this forward.”

Nicola Currie, regional director at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), added: “This is exactly what we have been asking for since the autumn when the project was announced.

“We congratulate Natural England on being willing to delay the programme until 2011. This will give us all the opportunity to step back a pace, and for land managers, conservationists and property owners to make their concerns understood.

“There is great need for a comprehensive study of the effects these very large predators might have upon a livestock industry of outdoor pigs and poultry such as we have in the proposed area of introduction.”

Last night Natural England said a number of meetings had already taken place and it would be wrong to say the project had been postponed because there was no set timetable.

Chief scientist Tom Tew said: “The project partners remain committed to the feasibility study and we look forward to further engagement with interested groups to help assess whether a reintroduction should take place.

“A project of this type would only go ahead if it were right for the area as well as for the ecological needs of the birds themselves.

“We will continue to compile evidence in the months ahead and will rightly ensure that this work has been completed before seeking a determination of the licence application, and making decisions about whether to proceed with a reintroduction.”