20 March 2022
As part of the ongoing improvements to the Jesus Green ditch, Cambridge City Council has proposed to remove a section of the concrete wall and create a new wetland area beyond. This should benefit water voles and other wildlife by expanding their habitat and providing more wetland plants for food and cover. The area is already looking better since the Council unblocked the ditch to allow water to flow, and removed litter and fly-tipping with the help of volunteers.
Local people have raised concerns that there is already a thriving population of water voles living and breeding in the ditch, and that the removal of the concrete wall would disturb them. Water voles are classed as endangered in Britain, having disappeared from 94% of their former sites, and are protected by law.
Cambridge Green Party recognises that a healthy environment is core to everything we are trying to achieve (we also have several ecologists and water vole enthusiasts on our current committee), so we take these concerns very seriously. Green Councillor Naomi Bennett has been in touch with Council officers to ensure that concerns are being taken on board.
Initial professional surveys indicated that water voles were not using the concrete bank to any significant extent. However, Naomi has heard from local people who know the site well and have watched young voles swimming in and out of the bank. She has passed this information on to the Council.
We are reassured to hear that the Council’s biodiversity officers are planning to re-survey the ditch to understand how the voles are using the area. The Council has assured us they will adapt their proposals as needed to make sure the project actually benefits the voles.
Thanks to the work of biodiversity experts within the Council, water voles are thriving at other locations in Cambridge such as Cherry Hinton brook. The Jesus Green project is still at the planning application stage – we encourage anyone with concerns or information to respond (link at the bottom of the page).
If you want to get more involved with the council’s biodiversity and open spaces work and are 18 and over, you can apply to be a streets and open spaces volunteer.