Papworth Special: MP steps into jobs fight

MP Shailesh Vara MP has backed the campaign to save more than 100 jobs at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, at Monks Wood, which is threatened with closure over the next four years. The MP for North West Cambridgeshire has urged Environment Secretary

MP Shailesh Vara MP has backed the campaign to save more than 100 jobs at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, at Monks Wood, which is threatened with closure over the next four years.

The MP for North West Cambridgeshire has urged Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett to intervene in the decision by the National Environmental Research Council (NERC).

Mr Vara is particularly concerned with the "done deal" attitude of NERC, which he said limited its consultation period to Decemeber 6 to January 13.

He believes NERC is trying to push its proposals through without too much attention being drawn to the exercise.

He has also written to the chairman of the council, Rob Margetts, explaining his concern.

"Monks Wood has been conducting world-class ecological research for over 40 years and has helped to put the area and the wider science community of Cambridgeshire on the international map," Mr Vara said.

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"The closure would mean over 100 people facing redundancy or forced relocation - many of whom are world-class scientists and technicians conducting important ecological research of considerable significance.

"Unique research facilities will be lost and long-term field sites will be threatened. The local economy will suffer as the closure impacts on firms which help to service and maintain the centre.

"Moreover, schools and colleges will lose invaluable opportunities for education and training in environmental science. And local projects, such as the Great Fen wetland restoration and flood defence scheme, may be deprived of essential skills and knowledge."

The MP said the closure of Monks Wood would be a great loss to the local community. In addition to the threatened jobs at the centre, there would be an impact on local firms, affecting the local economy.

"At a time when the world is waking up and beginning to recognise the importance of environmental issues, it beggars belief that Government cut-backs will lead to the closure of such an important centre," he said.

"In his pre-Budget statement earlier this month, even the Chancellor of the Exchequer emphasised the importance of spending on environmental matters.

"I am highly suspicious of the limited consultation period, especially as it covers the festive season when people's minds will be focused on other matters.

"This appears to be a done-deal, which is being pushed through with a token gesture for public consultation.

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