"The Cambridgeshire Lodes carry water across the low lying fens into the River Cam. The Lode embankments have failed in a number of places in recent years because of seepage and the nature of the soils on which they are constructed. As a result the Environment Agency (EA) have undertaken costly emergency repairs.
"The EA is currently in the process of developing a strategy for the future maintenance of the Lodes and their embankments. This will have to take into consideration the National Trust's long term plan to extend Wicken Fen. Wicken Future Fen aims to create a huge new wetland nature reserve over much of the area through which the Lodes flow. This is going to change the land-use in the area and increase groundwater levels.
"The EA currently justifies funding for maintaining the Lodes embankments on the grounds of providing flood protection to a few properties and the surrounding fen agricultural land. However, as the National Trust changes the agricultural land to wetland the EA believes it will be increasingly difficult to justify this expenditure. In addition the higher groundwater levels are likely to increase the risk of embankment failures.
"As the Wicken Fen project is still in development, the strategy the EA is developing cannot yet set out detailed recommendations for the future maintenance of the Lodes. The EA recognises the high amenity value of these lodes and has consulted widely on a broad range of preliminary options to give interested parties the opportunity to present their views. The EA's initial study is due to be completed by the end of this year and further consultations will take place before any conclusions are reached."