Water meadows could be saved by rethink

ENVIRONMENT chiefs have agreed to review a decision to ban the usage of a much-needed water gate in a bid to save historic Suffolk meadows.Members of the Common Lands charity, which is responsible for looking after the water meadows in Sudbury, were dealt a devastating blow when they learnt the gate, near The Croft, would no longer be opened or closed because of health and safety regulations.

ENVIRONMENT chiefs have agreed to review a decision to ban the usage of a much-needed water gate in a bid to save historic Suffolk meadows.

Members of the Common Lands charity, which is responsible for looking after the water meadows in Sudbury, were dealt a devastating blow when they learnt the gate, near The Croft, would no longer be opened or closed because of health and safety regulations.

The ban could spell disaster for plant and wildlife habitats if the dykes and ponds surrounding the River Stour dry up.

But the Environment Agency said last night it would take the charity's concerns into consideration in a bid to find an alternative solution to the problem.


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“The agency has been advised to stop using the gate, but we rely on water control and that is how the river has been managed for centuries,” said Adrian Walters, a ranger for the Common Lands charity.

“Originally the locks would have controlled the flow of water to power the mill, but all the mechanics are still there, and you cannot just decide they are not going be used anymore when they have a purpose.”

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The decision not to use the gate could also lead to the charity losing vital funds from the Suffolk River Valley Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme.

“We have restored many ponds and dykes, and there is a requirement to keep them full of water, which will not happen if the gate is left open,” said Mr Walters.

“We have worked so hard to promote nature conservation, but if the agreement is compromised, we could lose funding.

“We would prefer the gate to be left shut, but that could also be a problem from a flooding point of view.

“Sudbury's water meadows are part of a historic landscape that remains untouched. Every year we find new species, and they are constantly improving.

“We appreciate the health and safety implications, but the river levels have to be maintained so we would be very keen to find a suitable resolution to the problem.”

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said a worker had hurt his arm whilst trying to close the gate in 2002, but said the decision to stop using it was based purely on the recent health and safety assessment.

“We are trying to decide what the best course of action will be,” she added.

“We had to stop operating the gate for health and safety reasons, but we are reviewing the situation and are currently in the process of getting in touch with the Common Lands Charity to find out exactly what the concerns are.

“Those concerns will then be taken into consideration.”

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