UK: Green Light for Ouse Washes Program

An Environment Agency project to create new habitat next to the Ouse Washes at Coveney has been given planning permission.

The first stage of the project will eventually see 200 hectares of land at Coveney, including Wardy Hill and part of Witcham parish, changed from arable farmland to grassy wetlands.

Ground water levels will be raised and a new lake will be created to store enough water over the drier summer months.

The project is part of a larger scheme to create more wet grassland near the Ouse Washes. This is a requirement of European law because there has been a decline in bird numbers since the 1970’s – a result of more frequent use of the Ouse Washes to protect the Fens from flooding.

In 2005 the UK Government decided that creating new habitat was the best way to address the decline in bird numbers – as an alternative to prohibitively expensive engineering works.

Two potential areas for habitat creation were identified at the southern end of the Washes close to the villages of Sutton together with Haddenham, and at Coveney including Wardy Hill and part of Witcham parish.

Over the past few years, the Environment Agency has been buying land around these areas to allow the work to happen.

The Environment Agency has worked closely with Defra, Natural England, RSPB, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and the Wildlife Trust to develop the project.

Peter Doktor, Project Manager for the Environment Agency, said: “We’re delighted that East Cambridgeshire District Council Planning Committee unanimously approved the scheme on 4 September.

The new habitat will help create a network of wildlife sites around the Great Ouse and the wider Fens, helping wildlife to thrive in this internationally important wetland.

“We have consulted with residents and landowners around the Coveney site in an effort to ensure our proposals were acceptable to them. Following the granting of planning permission we will continue to liaise with the local community to minimise possible disruption during construction.”

The first phase of construction is expected to begin in spring 2014.

Press Release, September 9, 2013

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