The fight to get a controversial fishing ban at Cusworth Hall overturned took a shock twist this week after water voles were cited as the reason for doing away with angling.
Over the summer, Angling Times launched a campaign to get Doncaster County Council’s decision to ban angling on the popular local venue reversed after hundreds of disgruntled readers called up to vent their anger at the new policy.
An investigation was instantly launched and officials from the council have now revealed that the spread of water voles on the site led to anglers no longer being welcome.
Mayor Peter Davies is now claiming that the majority of the town’s residents were in favour of banning angling in order to protect the small, furry rodents.
“An independent environmental impact assessment into any potential resumption of angling was commissioned. It confirmed that, in the absence of any angling activities, the water vole population spread from one location to all three lakes following their restoration,” said the mayor.
“The results of the consultation came out in favour of not resuming angling at the lakes, the general consensus of opinion being that water voles are a rare and endangered species, and that there are many other suitable, purpose-built venues available to anglers within the borough,” he added.
But anglers appear ready to continue to push for the return of the sport to the venue in spite of the mayor’s statement.
Local rod Derek Belli controlled the fishing at Cusworth at one time and he is adamant that anglers helped conserve local wildlife.
“The lake that anglers targeted had water voles present when fishing was allowed ¬ I know that for a fact. When the restoration of the venue took place officials were told water voles were present, but that didn’t stop them ripping the place up with diggers and JCBs,” said Derek.
“As for the consultation, it was a farce. The vote was available on a site that the ecologists used and anglers simply weren’t made aware of it.
Multiple voting was allowed and it was biased against anglers from the outset,” he added.
Experts in water vole conservation have been left bemused by the council’s reasoning, in particular the reliability of the impact assessment.
Derek Gow, who runs a consultancy firm specialising in water vole conservation and has studied the creatures intensively for well over a decade, told Angling Times: “If anglers don’t disturb the vegetation between their pegs and keep their area tidy, then I see no reason why fishing should be stopped to protect voles. I have done numerous studies relating to the species at places where fishing takes place and I have always witnessed water voles and anglers living side by side. I really can’t see what the issue is.”