Growing Concern Among Farmers For Future Of Land at Wicken

PUBLISHED: 09:32 20 November 2008 | UPDATED: 10:38 04 May 2010

CONCERN is growing among the farming community about plans to create fenland habitat on prime agricultural land between Wicken and Cambridge. The National Trust wants to create a large scale nature reserve; an area stretching east from the River Cam to B

CONCERN is growing among the farming community about plans to create fenland habitat on prime agricultural land between Wicken and Cambridge.

The National Trust wants to create a large scale nature reserve; an area stretching east from the River Cam to Burwell, Lode and Swaffham Prior. National Trust representatives say they have had a positive public response to their plans, but Conservative councillors at East Cambs District Council have joined forces with the farming community and decided to overrule officers and outvoted Liberal Democrat councillors at a meeting on Tuesday.

Fred Brown, council leader, was among the dissenters.

"We can't support that amount of land coming out of agriculture," he told the Ely Standard.

"They made a song and dance about the area being used as a flood back-up, but the area hasn't flooded in 26 years. The simple fact of the matter is, we have to look strategically, without focusing on crested newts and the like," he added.

"What's wrong with farmers allowing public access on their walkways and bridleways as it is? Farmers allow that for free and, of course, that doesn't apply to the National Trust. We have to look at what we've got and enhance it, not flood land that our forebears spent years and years draining. They got it right, so why do we want to turn the clock back for the sake of a few crested newts or frogs?"

Cllr Brown called for a major re-think of the vision, and said he was right behind farmers who objected to the plans.

Council officers, meanwhile, are still committed to the Wicken Vision, alongside a vision for a greener Ely, which are enshrined in more than one of their legally binding document.

Cllr David Brown said he felt compelled to side with the people he represents in Burwell. "There has been a lot more concern than you might think. People have got used to one man, Geoffrey Woollard, standing up on their behalf but concern in the village goes beyond one person."

Liberal Democrats, however, support the 100-year vision for a greener Cambridgeshire.

Cllr Ian Allen, said: "The idea is to move away from chemical agriculture in that area - in the long term it shrinks peat, and would leave a dustbowl."

"No farmer has to give up his land and the National Trust is paying market rates to those who want to sell. If creating the vision means that in 50 years time people can hire a bike at Ely Country Park and go all the way through Wicken to Cambridge, we have a chance of a green tourist industry. More importantly, if we are going to build so many thousand new homes in the county, we need to safeguard a green area that is easily accessible, and free for everyone to enjoy."

Philip Broadbent-Yale, National Trust area manager for Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire responded: "We are surprised and disappointed that East Cambridgeshire District Council has decided to reserve its support for the Wicken Fen Vision subject to further consultation. This is particularly surprising as East Cambridgeshire District Council's 2008 Corporate Plan identified the Wicken Fen Vision as 'significant' in terms of green infrastructure provision for the area."

INFO: For more detail on Wicken Vision, go to www.wicken.org.uk/vision

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do you have concerns about this project and the future of farming in the area?

Write to: the Ely Standard, 38 Market Street, Ely, Cambs, CB7 4LS or email: editor@ely-standard.co.uk

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