CROSS-BORDER partnership is needed now more than ever to try and overcome the difficulties caused by the economic downturn.
That was the clear message at a joint forum of the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast European Marine Site (EMS) and Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The conservation bodies, which cover the coastal and marine areas from St Abbs in the north to Alnmouth in the south, joined forces two years ago to produce a joint integrated management plan.
David Feige, the newly appointed principle natural environment and AONB officer at Northumberland County Council, said: “I think the decision to do a joint management plan was certainly a positive one and I would like to continue that process of integration.
“Certainly, in these times of major cuts and austerity one of the most positive ways of overcoming that is to ensure we are working more closely together.”
Claire Carey, EMS implementation officer, agreed: “Partnership working is vital, particularly on what is a very large cross-border site, in a world of decreasing recources.”
The meeting in Berwick’s Guildhall on Thursday provided interest groups with the opportunity to see how it has been progressing.
Representatives from groups including Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, the National Trust, Environment Agency and Marine Scotland were present.
Former Scottish Borders councillor John Elliot from Duns stepped down as EMS chairman after four years in the role and was replaced by Tom Cadwallender who recently retired from the AONB team at Northumberland County Council.
Tom said: “The AONB and EMS are quite fantastic places and we are at the forefront of management in the coastal zone.
“We have a challenge to meet and seeing all these faces who all care about the same thing in one room galvanises me.”
AONB officer Mel Nicholls gave an overview of its recent work, including its opposition to controversial plans for luxury housing at The Haven in Beadnell.
A pilot project aimed at reducing street clutter in Bamburgh is being progressed and, if approved, may be extended to Holy Island and Newton-by-the-Sea.
It is also looking at creating geology interpretation trails and bringing historic buildings back into use, such as the derelict Goswick lookout station which it was suggested would make an ideal observation tower.
They also want to work with golf clubs on environmental plans.
Ms Carey revealed one of the future goals was the integration of Special Protection Areas (SPA) into EMS management.
She said: “The Fast Castle to St Abbs SPA was extended to include the marine environment in 2009 and we are looking at doing the same with Coquet Island, the Farne Islands and Northumberland Coast SPA.
“They have a very close ecological relationship with the features of the EMS.”