Lodes come under threat

PUBLISHED: 11:35 10 May 2007 | UPDATED: 12:28 04 May 2010

MAKING A STAND. Parish councillor Geoffrey Woollard ready to fight again to save the historic Lodes. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

MAKING A STAND. Parish councillor Geoffrey Woollard ready to fight again to save the historic Lodes. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

THIRTY years after fighting to save the county s ancient drainage channels, campaigners fear they may have to draw up battle plans again. They are worried that there could be a new plan to convert the Ely Ouse Lodes into ditches, changing them forever. Co

THIRTY years after fighting to save the county's ancient drainage channels, campaigners fear they may have to draw up battle plans again.

They are worried that there could be a new plan to convert the Ely Ouse Lodes into ditches, changing them forever.

Consultants employed by the Environment Agency have drawn up a report setting out a number of options including downgrading the Lodes, which probably date back to Roman times and take water from the high land to the River Cam.

The move would involve lowering the water level to below ground level and possibly pumping water to the river.

Swaffham Prior parish councillor, Geoffrey Woollard, who lives at River Bank near Upware and fought to save the ancient channels 30 years ago, said: "It appears a similar sort of threat to the future of the Lodes is on the horizon.

"I don't want to see the disappearance of this important recreational and historical feature.

"Thirty years ago there was a plan to do away with the Lodes and let the water drain into the Fen drainage system and then pump it out again. That seemed incredibly wasteful of power and energy and detrimental to this historical facility.

"Eventually the Lodes were patched and repaired and they carried on. These are local features which are internationally known."

Swaffham Prior Parish Councillors were due to discuss the matter at their meeting tonight (Thursday).

South East Cambridgeshire MP, Jim Paice, has given his support to retaining the Lodes in their present form.

He said: "I would certainly not support any downgrading of our Lodes if the Environment Agency ever came up with such a proposal."

The future of the Lodes is under review as part of Anglian regional flood defence management.

A £1.2 million budget is available over the next year for a programme of schemes which will include a strategy for the Ely Ouse Lodes.

Their future is being discussed in relation to the National Trust's Great Fen Project, which aims to flood thousands of acres of fenland over the next 100 years.

An Environment Agency spokesman said: "This study is currently being undertaken to determine the optimum future maintenance strategy for the lodes, and will also take into account the potential impact the Wicken Future Fen project will have on these embankments.

"It is due to be completed by the end of this year and full consultation with key stakeholders will take place before any conclusions are reached.

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