Could Felixstowe soon be booming?

ONE of Britain's rarest birds is a frequent visitor to a beautiful landscape protesters claim could be threatened by housing development proposals, it was revealed today.

ONE of Britain's rarest birds is a frequent visitor to a beautiful landscape protesters claim could be threatened by housing development proposals, it was revealed today.

Bitterns - famous for their booming call - have been spotted using the area of north Felixstowe which planners have identified as a potential site for 1,620 new houses.

Although the homes would not be put on the habitat used by the threatened birds, it would encroach into the unspoilt area and put further pressure on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Experts have already called for the top quality farmland to be further protected and for the AONB to be extended.

Ornithologist Steve Piotrowski, a bird expert of many years standing with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Landguard Observatory at Felixstowe, said bitterns were definitely using the freshwater reed beds along the River Deben on the Felixstowe side.

Although not breeding in the area like they are at Minsmere, they use the beds between Felixstowe Ferry and the Kingsfleet waterway to overwinter and feed.

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Mr Piotrowski said there was a strong possibility bitterns could extend the use of the habitat in the future and may use it for breeding.

“Bitterns do winter in this area and this is a prime habitat for them,” he said.

“Reed beds such as those around the Kingsfleet are very precious indeed.

“Such sites are protected by European legislation and we need to do all we can to make sure they are not lost in future because they are vital parts of our landscape and important habitat for wildlife.”

Ken Ferriss, one of the leaders of the campaign group Save Felixstowe Countryside, said: “It is amazing we have bitterns along the river - the RSPB have confirmed to me the birds use the area - and we must do all we can to protect them.

“This part of Felixstowe has a huge amount of wildlife - birds, otters, hares, foxes, bats, owls - and is a haven for people to get away and enjoy somewhere tranquil and rural, to birdwatch, cycle and walk. We are so lucky to have it.

“The last thing we should be talking about is tearing it up for housing.”

Planners at Suffolk Coastal say no decisions have been made and at this stage people are being asked for their views on where it might be acceptable to build future homes.

Felixstowe Town Council meets on Tuesday March 11 at Walton Community Hall at 7.30pm to give its views and people can contact the campaigners at www.savefelixstowecountryside.co.uk

Where should the new homes be built? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Bitterns

Bitterns were extinct in Britain between 1886 and 1911 and reached a second low point in 1997 when the bird's population dropped to 11 males.

Today there are reckoned to be 51 male bitterns across 33 sites.

The eastern region is a haven for the birds - especially the RSPB's Minsmere reserve - but there is growing concern that sea level rises could damage habitat.

Males make a remarkable far-carrying, booming sound in spring.

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