Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Victory in fight to save Fen lodes

Pike anglers and conservationists have won the fight to save Cambridgeshire's historic lodes.

Nearly 1,000 of them signed an online petition to save the ancient waterways, when it emerged their future was under review.

Options being considered included lowering water levels, which would have destroyed important pike fisheries and rendered Bottisham, Burwell and Reach lodes un-navigable.

Today leaked documents revealed the Environment Agency’s consultation paper, due to be published next month, recommends continuing to repair the lodes and maintaining water levels.
It says the decision should be reviewed every five years.

Pike Anglers Club anglian liaison officer Dennis Moules said: "It's good news, it gives us a reprieve for five years at least and had this come out at the beginning a lot of cost could have been avoided."

Retired county councillor Geoffrey Woolard, who launched the petition, said: “It looks like we’ve won a five year reprieve, which vindicates our friends and supporters and shows they were right.

“The petition system has proved to be marvellous for us, we’ve been able to get the word out quickly to people about the threat.”

The EA paper says: “Many responses received from local people during the initial phase of the consultation indicated that they were averse to doing anything other than maintaining the lodes as they are at present.

“The preferred option is therefore expected to be strongly supported by the local interest groups and parish council representatives.”

Last weekend, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office responded to the Save Our Lodes petition in a statement on the 10 Downing Street website.

It said the National Trust’s plan to extend its Wicken Fen nature reserve, between Cambridge and Ely, would dictate the way the lodes were managed in the future.

But trust spokesman Nick Champion said: “We were extremely disappointed to see the Government’s response to the ‘Save our Lodes’ e-petition on behalf of the Environment Agency on the No 10 Downing street website.

"What they said was unhelpful at best and implied that the Wicken Fen Vision is a justification for the Agency to cease funding the maintenance of the Lodes."