History of the Ouse Fen Nature Reserve

History of the Ouse Fen Nature Reserve at Needingworth in Huntingdonshire


In June 1994, Cambridgeshire Country Council granted planning approval for Hanson Aggregates to establish a major sand and gravel quarry covering some 945 hectares (2, 334 acres) near Needingworth village and to the north of Over village. This approved scheme of restoration would have seen the land progressively returned to agriculture at ground level at Needingworth and at low level on Over Fen.

Sand and gravel extraction at Needingworth Quarry

Needingworth Quarry

Needingworth Quarry being transformed into Ouse Fen Nature Reserve

Needingworth Quarry being transformed into Ouse Fen Nature Reserve


During the planning process an alternative nature conservation scheme was suggested by English Nature, RSPB, Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust, Countryside Commission and Environment Agency.

The initial sketch proposal focused on a range of habitat types created by partial flooding of the restored low-level agricultural area.

The 1994 planning consent included an obligation through legal agreement with Hanson that the company should prepare a feasibility study for the alternative scheme. The RSPB, with its extensive experience in nature reserve operation and management, made a considerable contribution to the study. The feasibility report highlighted the potential to restore up to 600 hectares as a reed bed wetland, capable of supporting population of nationally threatened species such as bittern.

The planning process

Following extensive consultation with statutory and non-statutory bodies, Hanson submitted a planning application to "Create a wetland habitat following extraction of sand and gravel at Needingworth quarry" to Cambridge County Council in June 1999.

After further consultations with the general public and other relevant bodies, the application was considered by the development control committee on the 27th March 2000, which resolved to support the application subject to a legal agreement and the imposition of planning conditions.