Nature Campaigners Celebrating SSSI Status At Roswell Pits

PUBLISHED: 08:42 17 February 2009 | UPDATED: 10:43 04 May 2010

Roswell Pits

Roswell Pits

NATURE campaigners are celebrating after Ely's Roswell Pits (part of Ely Pits and Meadows SSSI) were confirmed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England, the body in charge of conserving the country's best wildlife

NATURE campaigners are celebrating after Ely’s Roswell Pits (part of Ely Pits and Meadows SSSI) were confirmed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Natural England, the body in charge of conserving the country’s best wildlife and geographical sites, made the announcement after a four month public consultation process which included the site owner Jeremy Tyrrell of Ely Marine Ltd.

Natural England found evidence of wintering bitterns – a rare species – at the Pits, and although the three pits were given SSSI status last June, Mr Tyrrell’s challenge to the proceedings delayed official confirmation until February 12.

Ely Marine’s opposition to the SSSI centred on the claim that there were few rare birds on the site, but a bittern reserve in the middle of one pit was then proposed as part of Mr Tyrrell’s plans for development of the area.

Jim Gammie, team leader for Natural England said: “The enhancement of that area has only ever been proposed as an integral part of a wider development proposal which would require scrutiny under the formal planning procedure..”

“We as a team never had any doubt about the SSSI matching up to the scientific criteria – but any landowner has the right to challenge that and take it to the independent board,” said Mr Gammie.

The pits are home to a variety of different prehistoric reptile fossils, as well as large numbers of rare wetland birds including the bittern, which is one of Britain’s most threatened bird species. Conservationists want to preserve the site –whereas Mr Tyrrell, who bought the Pits from the Thomas Parsons Charity two years ago, has always said the area needs to be made economically viable.

His ambitious proposals for the Pit – which have never been formally submitted to planning officials – will have to be assessed alongside the requirements of the SSSI, which local authorities are duty bound to take into account when examining development proposals.

Secretary of the Local Campaign for the Protection of Rural Ely, Pat Hillman, welcomed the decision: “We were very pleased with the decision because it gives the protection to the wildlife that we felt was very much needed,” she said.

The decision means that owners will be subject to stringent regulations with regards to future development of the site, with any intended changes having, first, to undergo the test of sustainability.

Natural England’s East of England director, Shaun Thomas, said: “The designation of Ely Pits and Meadows SSSI ensures that the nationally important wildlife and geology of the area will be fully recognised and taken into account in the future management and uses of the site.

“In particular, Natural England recognises the important roles of the owners and managers of the land and will work with them and other public bodies to develop means to secure the sustainable management of the area.”

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