Water voles in the news

The Wildlife Trusts are in the news today with the publication of a new report that points to 30% decline in water vole distribution over ten years. The campaign to save the water vole says:

The water vole is a much-loved British mammal better known as ‘Ratty’ in the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows. Unfortunately, the future of this charming riverside creature is in peril; the water vole needs urgent help to survive in the UK.

Water voles have suffered huge declines as a result of habitat loss, pollution of waterways, industrialisation of agriculture, housing development and predation by American mink which were brought to the UK for fur farming. Once a regular sight in ditches, streams and rivers across the UK, water voles are now absent from much of the country.

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Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd plans to build a massive solar park surely qualify as further ‘industrialisation’ of our countryside. Their initial work to analyse what impacts they will have on our wildlife covered water voles is covered in their Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Report. It says:

252. Water vole surveys were undertaken in line with best practice guidance in September 2015. This consisted of identifying the extent and distribution of water vole activity through targeted searches of the banks of the network of ditches for field signs indicating recent activity (e.g., feeding stations, latrines, footprints) as well as signs of past and potentially present activity (e.g., burrows). All suitable watercourses within Development site were examined in detail for evidence of water vole activity. Any incidental records of otter were recorded.

253. In total 22 ditches were surveyed for water vole within the Development site boundary. Generally, current water vole activity is abundant and widespread across the Development site within suitable habitat. Water vole activity was recorded from 10 ditches. Other species recorded throughout the ditch network included bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus) and brown rat (Rattus norvegicus). No evidence of otter was recorded.

254. The survey results will be used to inform the design of the Development in a way to minimise effects on water vole and pre-construction surveys will be undertaken within three months of commencement to ensure that water voles will not be harmed during the installation of the Development.

The construction of thousands and thousands of 3m high solar panels, along with all the cabling, electrical equipment and the hundreds of shipping containers that will form the site’s battery storage is going to be disruptive. It’s clear that this proposed solar park is just too big – being five times larger than anything else in the UK. This industrialised solar development will inevitably affect the local wildlife.

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