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Joined: 25 Jan 2003
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View other posts by GemmaJF
Posted: 11 Dec 2004

Date: December 10, 2004

Time: 10:15


A former brick pit in Peterborough was given permanent legal protection yesterday as the most important site for great crested newts in Britain and possibly Europe, and as one of the top two sites in the UK for rare plants called stoneworts.

English Natures ruling Council finalised the declaration of the wildlife site, next to the Hampton development, to be a nationally important Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). O & H HAMPTON LTD and Peterborough City Council, who own parts of the land, made objections to the declaration. English Natures Council accepted some but overruled two other objections from O & H Hampton Ltd and Peterborough City Council to exclude some areas of land from the site.

English Natures Director of Designated Sites, Dr Andy Clements, said: The old brick pits at Hampton provide the most amazing haven for great crested newts and in some areas have plants that are only otherwise found on Scottish islands. A huge operation to move over 20,000 newts before the start of building at Hampton has proved a success and they are now thriving in this SSSI. English Nature will continue to work with the developers O & H Hampton Ltd and Peterborough City Council to ensure that the development of housing and transport for the city happens while maintaining, and where possible enhancing, these important wildlife refuges. Hampton is proving to be a powerful example of truly sustainable development.

Hampton is thought to be the single biggest site for great crested newts in Britain, making it key to the survival of the tiny amphibians. A series of pools created in the clay at the former brick pit, together with ponds in woodland and scrub provide the perfect conditions for the small creatures to survive. Surveys on the site estimate there are more than 25,000 newts possibly making it the most important site in Europe for this declining species.

The old brick workings also provide perfect conditions for delicate aquatic stoneworts. Their name comes from the lime that encrusts them and unlike other plants; most stoneworts build an external skeleton made of chalk (calcium carbonate). As well as their ecological significance, stoneworts are also recognised for their evolutionary importance. Fossil records tell us these remarkable plants have long been considered candidates for the evolutionary origin of todays land plants.

Notes for editors

1. English Nature is the Governments independent agency that champions the conservation of wildlife and geology throughout England.

2. SSSIs are the country's very best wildlife and geological sites. There are over 4,000 Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England, covering around 7% of the country's land area. Notification as an SSSI gives these sites legal protection. By law, we must notify all owners and occupiers of any land that we consider to be of special interest because of any of its flora, fauna, or geological and physiographical features. We must also inform the local planning authority, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and certain public bodies, such as the Environment Agency, water and sewerage companies and internal drainage boards about SSSIs. Owners and occupiers are given four months to make objections and representations about the notification of a new SSSI. The Council of English Nature decides whether or not to confirm a notified SSSI.

3. English Natures Council is statutorily responsible for everything done by or in the name of English Nature. The Council will discharge the duties as laid down in statute and in guidance/requirements from Government. The Council sets English Natures strategy and overall programme and monitors its implementation. The Council of English Nature decides whether or not to confirm a notified SSSI. Members of the Council are appointed by the Secretary of State, and are independent of English Nature staff and the Executive Committee. The Council will use their own personal and expert judgement on the issue, and will carefully consider all concerns and objections.

4. Orton Pits SSSI covers an area of approximately 145 hectares and is about 4kms South West of the centre of Peterborough. The site includes the whole of the 'ridge and furrow' area created by clay extraction, bounded on the north side by the treebelt along the Fletton Parkway, between junctions 1 and 3, and extending south as far as Haddon Lake.

5. Around 24,000 immature and adult great crested newts were moved from the development area to specially prepared receptor sites to the west and south of the translocation area. Monitoring results show the newts appear to be thriving.

For more information contact English Natures national press office on 01733 455190, out-of-hours 07970 098 005, email press@English-nature.org.uk or go to www.English-nature.org.uk


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant


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