An almost-extinct bird is to be reintroduced to Norfolk despite calls to block the project.

West Norfolk Council has given the green light for conservationist Andrew Crean's ruff breeding programme  - a wading bird that lives in marshland habitat - at Marsh Farm at Deepdale near Burnham Market.

The project builds on previous success of introducing the young birds from Germany, which have already been released onto the marsh.

Eastern Daily Press: Young ruff being released into an aviary at Deepdale MarshYoung ruff being released into an aviary at Deepdale Marsh (Image: Chris Bishop)

The scheme ran into opposition from officers, who recommended it was refused due to the plans to build a warden's bungalow.

They argued there was not sufficient evidence to justify building a new dwelling in the rural area and that temporary accommodation, such as a caravan, should be used instead.

At a planning committee meeting, Mr Crean defended the scheme, describing it as a "valuable conservation project" and that a permanent dwelling was necessary for it to be a success, housing an on-site warden to provide 24-hour care for the birds and to facilitate scientific research.

Eastern Daily Press: A male ruff performs its distinctive mating displayA male ruff performs its distinctive mating display (Image: Mark Andrew)

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Despite the officer's recommendation, councillors saw merit in the project and were supportive of Mr Crean's arguments for the permanent dwelling.

Councillor Simon Ring said it would be a "dereliction of duty" not to support it and was keen to support the work of the conservationists.

Councillor Pallavi Devulapalli added: "Biodiversity is in such a decline around the world and in west Norfolk. Any steps that can improve this should be encouraged."

Eastern Daily Press: Deepdale Marsh, where Andrew Crean hopes to expand efforts to reintroduce the ruffDeepdale Marsh, where Andrew Crean hopes to expand efforts to reintroduce the ruff (Image: David Hosking)

Councillors voted unanimously in support of the project.


Ruff is a migratory bird that breeds in wetland habitats in northern Europe before travelling to the warmer climes of Africa in the winter months.

Eastern Daily Press: A young ruff at Deepdale MarshA young ruff at Deepdale Marsh (Image: Chris Bishop) 

The wading bird has a long neck and a droopy bill with reddish legs.

Since the mid-19th century, its numbers have declined significantly, becoming practically extinct in the UK.

But this project hopes to turn its fortunes around and boost the breeding population in Norfolk.