Fen project no threat'
PUBLISHED: 11:44 13 September 2007 | UPDATED: 12:46 04 May 2010
EUROPE S largest conservation group, The National Trust, has defended its ambitious 100-year vision for Wicken Fen claiming it poses no threat to the future of Ely s ancient drainage channels. The charity had come under fire from campaigners fighting to s
EUROPE'S largest conservation group, The National Trust, has defended its ambitious 100-year vision for Wicken Fen claiming it poses no threat to the future of Ely's ancient drainage channels.
The charity had come under fire from campaigners fighting to save the Roman built Lodes.
They had claimed that the National Trust's plan to partially flood land expanding Wicken Fen 16-fold would "seriously undermine the Lodes".
But Wicken Fen Vision project manager, Jon Megginson, said the Lodes' future rested with the Environment Agency.
If it recommended lowering the Lodes, however, the trust would oppose the move, he said.
"The National Trust is not advocating that maintenance of the Lodes be abandoned or that they be removed," he said.
The Trust claims it is planning to build bridges over the Lodes as part of a 13-mile sustainable transport route out of Cambridge to Ely.
"We are not going to flood 5,000ha of productive arable farmland," said a spokesman. "The vision is about a variety of habitats just like the existing Wicken Fen. This will include grassland, wetland and woodland. We can achieve this without undermining the banks of the existing lodes.
"The peat is wasting away due to current farming practices. Peat has already shrunk over four feet since the 1950's on the surrounding farmland and will continue to do so if ploughed and cultivated in the way that intensive arable farming has been carried out in the past. The Wicken Fen Vision is our opportunity to preserve this."
Campaigners have taken their fight to save the Lodes to the Government and 1,000 people have signed a petition on the 10 Downing Street website.
Some of them fought the same battle 30 years ago - when the ancient channels first came under threat - and won.
Retired county councillor, Geoffrey Woollard, who has been a key player in both battles, said: "My belief, which is shared by many others, is that the Wicken Vision and the threat to The Cambridgeshire Lodes are issues that are inextricably intertwined.
"If the National Trust succeeds with its plan the lode banks may be undermined from the outside."
Dennis Moules, East Anglian liaison officer for the Pike Anglers Club, said: "I welcome the National Trust's views but why didn't they come clean to start with?"
The Lodes' future was thrown into doubt following a feasibility study launched by the Environment Agency to determine their best long-term future.
"The potential impact of the Wicken Fen project is one of many things being taken into account," said a spokesman. "We hope to make a decision later this year.