Water voles home wrecked – council could be fined

� Havering Council could face prosecution and a �5,000 fine after digging up and destroying water vole habitats.

Work at Ingrebourne Valley Nature Reserve has been halted and a police investigation launched.

The council, which owns the reserve, was clearing silt and debris from the River Ingrebourne to reduce the risk of flooding to nearby homes.

But in the process, water vole habitats were destroyed, which is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 and carries a maximum �5,000 fine.

The police, Natural England and the Environment Agency are now investigating what happened.

Cllr Barry Tebbutt, cabinet member for the environment, said the council works closely with Environment Agency and Essex Wildlife Trust to ensure work is carried out carefully.

He added: “We are holding an internal investigation to find out what may have gone wrong and how to put it right as soon as possible.”

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A spokesman for Essex Wildlife Trust said: “We are extremely disappointed that this work was carried out in an area that had a long-established water vole population.

“No habitat now exists within the works area that can support water voles, which will fragment the remaining population.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency added: “The work has damaged the physical structure of the river channel, with implications for the overall river ecology – fish, invertebrates, plants and mammals.”

Police would like to hear from anybody who has information related to the water voles, photographs of the water voles or information on the wildlife within the reserve.

Contact PC Antony Kiddle on 0300 123 1212.

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