Wildlife Campaingers Celebrate after Roswell Pits is Awarded Protection

WILDLIFE campaigners have been celebrating after they learned Roswell Pits in Ely has been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This new protection for the site, which has been the focus of a long campaign to protect local wildlife, could bring

WILDLIFE campaigners have been celebrating after they learned Roswell Pits in Ely has been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

This new protection for the site, which has been the focus of a long campaign to protect local wildlife, could bring fresh hope for the beleaguered bittern.

The move means extra protection for the former clay pits and the meadows around them, which are home to rare wildlife including bitterns, marsh harriers and otters.

Natural England said the pits could offer bitterns "resilience to the protected effects of climate change". The birds' habitats on the Norfolk coast and Broads are under threat from rising sea levels


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Last night its East of England regional director Shaun Thomas added: "The notification of Ely Pits and Meadows SSSI will go a long way to ensuring 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.

"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 the means to secure the sustainable management of the specialist interest of the area."

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Liz Hunter, vice chair of conservation group Local Campaigners for the Protection of Rural Ely (LCPRE), said: "We are utterly and absolutely delighted. We hope this will protect the whole area for many years to come."

Developer Jeremy Tyrell bought the largest of the former clay pits and some of the land around it in 2006.

He said he wanted to create a marina for narrow boats on the lake, which is connected to the River Ouse at Foremill Wash, downstream of Ely.

But since then the 1000-strong LCPRE has mounted a running battle over the plans, while East Cambridgeshire Council has threatened Mr Tyrell with enforcement action over work already carried out on the site.

Ely Pits and Meadows SSSI covers 79.25 hectares. A four-month consultation period will follow before its status is confirmed.

But from this week, all owners and occupiers must give natural England notice before carrying out any work that could damage the SSSI and it becomes an offence to intentionally destroy or damage any of its plants or wildlife.

Natural England said established uses of the site, such as sailing, fishing and walking, could continue.

Pic caps: 2799HDExRoswell. The idyllic Roswell Pits with the cathedral in the background.

2796HDExRoswell. Roswell Pits is also home to Ely Sailing Club.

Photos: HELEN DRAKE.

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