Battle to keep climate-change expertise: Save these jobs’

COUNTRYSIDE campaigners are calling on the Prime Minister to intervene to prevent closure of a climate-change research laboratory and the loss of more than 100 jobs near Alconbury. The National Environment Research Council will decide on March 8 whether t

COUNTRYSIDE campaigners are calling on the Prime Minister to intervene to prevent closure of a climate-change research laboratory and the loss of more than 100 jobs near Alconbury.

The National Environment Research Council will decide on March 8 whether to go ahead with plans to close five of its nine sites, including the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Monk's Wood, set in 2,000-year-old ancient woodland in north Huntingdonshire.

But the Campaign to Protect Rural England wants Tony Blair to step in personally to reprieve "the multi-skilled scientific teams and their long-term research programmes, which cannot be undertaken effectively by universities".

"Will the Prime Minister leave a legacy of a high quality, modern and effective health service for our wildlife?" asked Tom Oliver, head of rural policy at CPRE.


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"Or will he allow the essential network of study bases, world-class scientists and their huge experience in preventive health care for wildlife to be thrown away? And just when we need them most."

Mr Oliver added: "The Prime Minister says he cares about the effects of climate change. If he really does, he cannot let the people who are working to understand its effects on wildlife be lost and much of their work abandoned."

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"This core group of scientists is at the cutting edge of work on the long-term effects of climate change and pollution on the health of our cherished birds, animals and plants. Their early warnings on the effects of climate change or pollution are invaluable in saving wildlife from decline."

Prospect union officials at Monk's Wood claim the £45million re-structuring proposals are designed to eliminate a budget shortfall of just £1.2million. NERC counters that closing the sites will bring in £58 million over a decade.

English Nature, the Peterborough-based former Nature Conservancy Council, has also attacked NERC's plans to close Monk's Wood.

The organisation, to be re-named again in October, when it combines with part of the Countryside Agency to become Natural England, is seeking assurances that any changes will not hit environmental research.

It said: "We particularly value the long-term research and data collections that CEH holds and seek assurances that these programmes will be maintained.

"We are concerned that, even if bio-diversity research programmes and work on long-term research and data are retained, closure of centres and relocation of staff may mean that essential key staff and key skills may be lost, compromising vital programmes. There are few other institutes in the UK that have the resources or breadth of expertise to undertake this type of work.

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