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Jesus Green water voles protected after council changes plans

A plan to spruce up the river bank at Jesus Green has been shelved after wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham joined a campaign to save the water voles living there.

Cambridge City Council has now carried out an ecological survey and sought specialist advice on how to protect the water vole population in

the bank.

The council has decided to withdraw its planning application, which proposed removing 80 metres of a concrete ditch bank under which the animals live to create “a more natural boundary”.

Chris Packham and, inset, a water vole in Cambridge. Inset picture: John Linsdell (56734690)
Chris Packham and, inset, a water vole in Cambridge. Inset picture: John Linsdell (56734690)

Cllr Alex Collis, executive councillor for open spaces, sustainable food and community wellbeing, said: “Our objective is to protect wildlife and enhance the site for water voles by creating a wetland with a higher diversity of aquatic plants for food

and cover.

“That is why we have carried out feasibility work and taken careful steps to ensure that we do not do anything that could cause harm.

“The decision to withdraw the planning application, following stakeholder engagement, a public consultation, investigations and surveys, allows us to take stock of our findings and adapt our proposal.

“Our approach is to be knowledge and evidence-based and completely focused on enhancing and supporting biodiversity, which is why we are doing all we can to get

it right.”

Water vole at Jesus College Picture: Rhona Watson (56734682)
Water vole at Jesus College Picture: Rhona Watson (56734682)

Based on the ecological information and advice obtained concerning the ditch’s water vole population, the council has updated its initial outline enhancement plans to remove the plan for mechanical reprofiling of the steep-sided ditch banks, as the ecological survey work identified water vole burrows behind the concrete bank walls of

the ditch.

The revised proposals will not require planning consent and will include a bank side meadow and planting of native shrub species to benefit the water vole population.

Local vole watcher John Lindsell, who brought the situation to the council’s attention, said he was “very glad the city council have decided not to go ahead with this project”, adding: “Hats off to them for realising it was the wrong thing to do. Long live the voles in peace.”

He campaigned against the plans back in March and managed to enlist the online support of Springwatch presenter Chris Packham, who asked his 540,000 Twitter followers to write to the city council to complain about the plans. He said: “If you have a moment, could you raise your concerns about Cambridge City Council’s @camcitco development of Jesus Green Brook, Cambridge? It has the potential to harmfully impact a long-established #WaterVole colony.”

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