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New West Norfolk wetland alongside River Wissey will offer home to bitterns and marsh harriers

PUBLISHED: 10:29 17 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:30 17 March 2014

Conservationists want to create a new wetland near Wissington Sugar Factory. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Conservationists want to create a new wetland near Wissington Sugar Factory. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2012

New wetland could be created in the heart of the Norfolk countryside, to replace coastal reedbeds lost to climate change and rising sea levels.

They hope marsh harriers will be able to breed there. Picture: David TiplingThey hope marsh harriers will be able to breed there. Picture: David Tipling

Norfolk Wildlife Trust wants to transform 120 acres of farmland it owns alongside the River Wissey, to the south and west of Wissington Sugar Factory.

Parts of the site would be flooded and turned into pools and reedbeds, while others would become rough grassland or be used for access tracks and banks.

In a planning statement to West Norfolk council, which is considering whether to give permission to change the use of the land, it says: “The reedbed habitat, the primary component of the site, is being created to replace similar habitat on the Suffolk coast.

“This habitat is predicted to be lost or modified due to rising sea levels and recent changes in the local sea-defence management regime.

“ The reedbed currently supports breeding and wintering bittern and breeding marsh harrier, constituent interest features of the European designation and priority species as part of the UK’s BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan).

“The replacement habitat to be created at the Methwold site is compensatory for this predicted coastal loss and it is a statutory obligation on the UK Government due to the area’s European-level designation.”

The application states the site would become part of a network of wetlands across the Fens. It adds the “expansive” wetland will enhance the Wissey Valley and its diversity.

“The aim is for the wetland site to be expansive, open and wild in character, supporting 18.9ha of tall reedbed and an extensive network of reed-fringed dykes and pools,” it adds.

“This will provide breeding and foraging areas for one pair of breeding and wintering bitterns and one pair of breeding marsh harrier as well as for a wide range of other wetland birds and other fauna and flora.”

West Norfolk council is expected to discuss the plan next month.

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