Guest blog – The battle for Beddington Farmlands (lost?) by Peter Alfrey

13241501_10154350269927518_235395328_o
Peter Alfrey is a naturalist based at Beddington Farmlands, and is director of Little Oak, a small company specialising in nature-friendly green space management in South London

 

Beddington Farmlands is a 400 acre site in South London, designated a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, is Metropolitan Open Land and has a total of over 2029 recorded species including 258 species of bird (eight red data list breeding species including Northern Lapwing and Tree Sparrow and nationally important wintering populations of Green Sandpiper, Caspian Gull and Water Pipit) , 526 species of moths and butterflies, 361 species of diptera, 262 species of coleoptera and 99 species of hymenoptera.

In 1995 Viridor, a waste management company, applied for permission to landfill the area on the condition that it would be restored to a public nature reserve by 2015. Following a Public Enquiry, permission was granted with attached conditions including the creation of a number of biodiversity action plan habitats such as Wet grassland, Acid grassland and reed beds. A comprehensive Conservation Management Plan was drawn up and various target species for conservation were selected to monitor the success of the restoration.

In 2005, Viridor applied for permission to extend waste management on site until 2023, delaying the opening of the public nature reserve and in 2012 they applied to build a 300,000 tonne incinerator on the site of the wet grassland. Following local widespread opposition, permission was granted to build the incinerator in 2013, the case went to judicial review in 2014, the courts ruled in favour of the one billion pound contract and work commenced in 2015.

Concurrent to the judicial review there was also a formal complaint made to the local government ombudsman regarding the lack of enforcement of planning conditions from Viridor and the resulting ecological collapse of Beddington Farmlands. Table 1 shows the lack of restoration implementation and Table 2 shows the results of that lack of implementation with a collapse in the population of the majority of target species.  The Local Government Ombudsman ruled that despite the delay in restoration and resulting loss of important wildlife communities the fault did not fall on the council and the Ombudsman closed the case in 2015 and also decided not to make the results of the case public.

Perhaps symbolic to the shambolic failure of the local planning system, in 2014 the Tree Sparrow, (the iconic species of Beddington, the mascot of the local naturalist community),  population crashed to only one pair, where as recent as 2007 there had been a thousand  birds in the post breeding season.

At present the situation at Beddington Farmlands is still in a dire state. There have been some verbal gestures by Viridor to improve the situation and the council have pledged to be encouraging Viridor to fulfil their planning obligations in the future but to date there have been no fundamental changes and the situation continues to decline, with new threats on the horizon including the de-designation of Metropolitan Open Land along the east boundary of the site and the phasing out of sewage disposal in an area that makes up nearly 50% of the Site of Importance for Nature Conservation.

In short, Beddington Farmlands represent a very good example of complete planning system failure in protecting wildlife and a demonstration that it is possible for a private corporation to almost completely wriggle out of their social and environmental obligations without any serious effects on their rolling agendas. It is also a case study of commercial ecologists assisting in that destruction and a demonstration of the ineffectiveness of local authority to have any control of a commercial corporation when it comes to biodiversity obligations.

For biodiversity and for the potential of Beddington Farmlands being a major urban nature reserve in South London all seems nearly lost. A nature reserve with the potential to create immense social benefit for the local community and preserve one of the most important areas in London for wildlife, ranking with Rainham and the London Wetland Centre as the most important area for birds in London (but falling behind drastically fast).  What will probably remain in the future is some kind of view of nature that Viridor feel is appropriate – a waste management company’s idea of what nature is-a few pools of water and something that looks green – with a few ducks and swans on the lakes. The biodiversity action plan habitats have not been created, the target species have all but been lost and there have been no legally binding commitments to any fundamental changes to imply anything in the future will be different – the only commitments made have been verbal, which if the past is anything to go by is at best appeasement and at worst blatant deceit.

Ironically Viridor are responsible for the major funding, through the Viridor Credits scheme, of some of the major conservation organisations, including the RSPB, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Wildlife Trusts. All these organisations have kept considerable distance in the Battle for Beddington- another indication of the scale of the failure of the planning system, where developers have more or less complete control over local communities and the environment.

Beddington Farmlands is a glimpse of the future for the rest of the UK, if democracy continues to be eroded by profiteering career ecologists, lawyers, incompetent local authorities and walking dead local communities. In many ways the commercial corporations are just doing their job – the blame arguably lies predominately with the conservation community for selling out. The Battle for Beddington Farmlands has been lost in a catastrophic way, the rest of the UK is next unless something radical changes and the conservation community remodels itself away from its reliance on corporate funding to survive, the same corporations which are destroying the environment on  a catastrophic scale.

On a personal level I’m preparing to ship out – just another ecological refugee of the Sixth Extinction?

 

Appendix

Table 1 Approximate year of restoration proposal with actual dates (extract from submission to Planning Officers Report Re: Beddington Farmlands ERF planning application)

1995 application 2005 application Actual date of restoration
Northern Lake 2000 # 2000 and 2009
Southern Lake 2003 # 2009
Reedbed in SE 2004 # Not restored; now proposed to be wet grassland
Reedbed in southern lake * * Attempted in 2010 and 2011
Wet grassland 2011 2011 To be restored
Acid grassland 2003 onwards 2021 onwards To be restored
Neutral grassland * 2008 onwards Some restoration, none complete

* = not proposed so no date

# = no date since the 2005 application assumed that they had already been created

 

 

Table 2. Breeding pairs of the target species for selected years (extracted from BBS data)

1995 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015 Notes on breeding population
Little Ringed Plover 1 1 1 0 0 0 Extinct
Ringed Plover 0 1 0 0 0 0 Failed
Lapwing 11 18 22 14 10 10 Initial improvement now declining
Redshank 4 1 2 0 0 0 Extinct
Common Tern 0 0 0 0 0 0 Failed
Yellow Wagtail 5 0 0 0 0 0 Extinct
Sedge Warbler 11 25 1 2 0 0 Extinct
Reed Warbler 31 19 13 32 13 32 Fluctuating
Whitethroat 73 76 66 55 41 53 Declining
Tree Sparrow 83 52 75 80 1 1 Near-extinct
Reed Bunting 23 17 5 3 2 2 Near-extinct

 

 

Likes(63)Dislikes(1)
Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati del.icio.us Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

31 Comments

  1. Gerard Hobley says:

    Outrageous.

    Likes(4)Dislikes(0)
  2. Messi says:

    This is a tragedy, and a warning to those who trust the planning system and legal obligations entered into to rectify biodiversity loss (such as through biodiversity offsetting).

    I recall birding at Beddington in the 90s, watching the little and rustic buntings that had set up home in swarms of tree sparrows. What a wonderful place it was. Open wader-full floods as far as the eye could see. Where else could one find such potential to establish a spectacular wetland reserve in the heart of a capital city? All the infrastructure was in place - ditches and streams with weirs and water control structures that would enable water levels to be manipulated across a huge area. My birding patch was actually the Thames at Thamesmead and the spectacular Tripcock Park with its breeding Cetti's warblers, bearded tits, turtle doves and little ringed plovers, right on the Thames. And that was another site of metropolitan importance for wildlife which we failed to protect (though the nearby Crossness is a notably success thanks to Thames Water).

    There's little doubt that Viridor had a long-term strategy here. Secure planning permission that kicks-off phase one, agree to a package of reserve creation to appease your opponents. Then, a few years down the line, apply for the hitherto secrete second phase, sure in the knowledge that the planners and more particularly the councillors on the planning committee can be bought in line. The biodiversity 'planning conditions' are merely a deflection, and, yes, a deceit. If anyone is working with Viridor, let this be a warning.

    As for the RSPB, if anyone says they'll resign their membership over this, I'd like the opportunity to throttle them! Probably the Beddington Farmlands case falls within the remit of the RSPB Brighton (or London?) based conservation teams. The saga will have coincided with unprecedented threats to the Thames Estuary - airports, river crossings, estuary wind farms. That fact is that the RSPB pays their Conservation Officers a pittance (those dealing with the Cliffe Airport, for example, might expect to earn around 22k or maybe up to 25k if they're exceedingly lucky - the ecological consultants they're up against could be earning twice that). And the RSPB expects very few Conservation Officers to handle a huge volume of hugely stressful case work.

    UK conservation teams within the RSPB must be the least appreciated and poorly-paid parts of the organisation.

    As for ecological consultants......there are a few - very few - really heroic individuals, those that will nudge their clients to do the best they can for wildlife, and a very few that will positively barge their clients in the right direction! But on the whole, ecological consultants do what they can to appease the developer, to ease the passage of their planning applications, and all too often the positive steps proposed by ecological consultants are subsequently ignored by the developer and any conditions aren't enforced by the planners. District planners are as stressed, under-resourced and over-worked as RSPB Conservation Officers!

    Peter - the Battle for Beddington needs to be written up as a book - a reality check reference guide for the rest of us, so we can spot where we're being taken for fools by developers and planning departments.

    Likes(40)Dislikes(10)
    • Messi says:

      It's great to see a 'dislike' vote for my comment above, but could whoever dislikes it please post their own reply, so we can have a meaningful debate?

      Likes(15)Dislikes(8)
      • Ephemera says:

        Stupid system - I was not registered and presumed clicking on Dislikes would show me who'd Disliked it - instead it registered it as a Dislike vote on my behalf with no option to change - so as long as voting is open to anyone happening on the site they may not be dislikes at all!

        For the record Messi I LIKE your comment.

        Likes(6)Dislikes(3)
        • John Morgan says:

          Not sure if it works here, but clicking the opposite of one's first like/dislike will cancel it - if not reverse it.

          Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
    • Random22 says:

      That wedge step-by-step strategy is the same one that is being used by this government in privatising the NHS and BBC, carving off bits in little slices. Actually, it is how they are carving up the country, just look at fracking.

      Likes(15)Dislikes(2)
    • Hilary MacBean says:

      As a former member of the district planners referred to by Messi I appreciate his comments. I worked hard to understand the Habitats Directive and the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations so that I could actually use them and to bring the relevant planning policies into the mainstream. I urged my team to follow but there is a lamentable lack of education in and appreciation of biodiversity and nature conservation amongst local authority planners. Nature just doesn't carry the same materiality as jobs and housing. I had some local successes in Scotland, securing changes in practices, awareness of issues, sound and enforceable planning conditions and even developer commitment (but we can see what that is worth)...but that is only step one. The biggest hurdle is monitoring and enforcement of planning conditions and seeing this through to action. The resources and commitment are just not there until the natural world gets a higher priority amongst the electorate. Mark Avery is doing a sterling job on the public in his own field. I hope that this will rub off on the planning system.

      Likes(20)Dislikes(0)
  3. Random22 says:

    The problem is the local electorate who fail to punish councillors for breaking promises and continue to vote on blind party allegiance because they believe voting for someone else is worse than voting to punish politicians who blatantly lie. Our entire political system rewards liars and those willing to say one thing and do another. Until we can convince the electorate in the UK to actively vote to punish lying liars who lie then we are going to keep on getting shafted like this.

    Likes(22)Dislikes(2)
    • Filbert Cobb says:

      walking dead local communities

      Likes(9)Dislikes(0)
    • MK says:

      ... or fail to vote full stop? I think turnout in most local elections outside of a general election year is about 30% - can anyone correct or substantiate that figure?

      Likes(4)Dislikes(0)
  4. Derik Palmer says:

    Messi, where you wrote 'sure in the knowledge that the planners and more particularly the councillors on the planning committee can be bought in line', I'm wondering whether your use of the word 'bought' is a typo for 'brought into line' or whether you actually meant 'bought' as in 'purchased' - because that's exactly what happened. The judicial review didn't seem to care about the personal relationship between the leader of the LibDem council and the Viridor Chairman, nor the little matter of a quarter of a million pound donation to the church of which the council leader is a member. And the one councillor who did stand up for what is right found himself expelled from the Liberal Democrat Party as a result. The whole affair stinks, and not just from the waste effluent.

    Likes(29)Dislikes(0)
    • Peter Alfrey says:

      Hi Derik, and let's not forget Councillor Fenwick who was bullied and coerced (Council leader threatened to expose some deeply personal problems of his) by Head of Council into voting for the incinerator on the development control committee . He later made a statement to the police to report the coercion. Also London Borough of Sutton Standards Committee refused to investigate not only Fenwicks coercion but also the undisclosed declaration of interests of Councillor Drage who headed up the South London Waste Plan that carried out the procurement process that led to Viridor being given the contract (He was God parent to Viridor CEO's children and went to uni with him and received gifts from Viridor to take the wife out on swanky dates- CEO was Colin Drummond at the time). Then as you mention the 250 grand to Councillor Drage's wife's pet project church from Viridor after the permission was granted. Now leading member of Standards Committee who refused to investigate is becoming Sutton Mayor. It couldn't be any more of stinking rotten borough!

      Likes(12)Dislikes(0)
  5. Dear Peter (and 'Messi'),

    I should state from the outset that I am writing as one of these 'profiteering career ecologists' as you describe me and my peers. I am also a full member (MCIEEM) of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (www.cieem.net) and a Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) from the Society for the Environment (http://www.socenv.org.uk/). Being a member, I abide by CIEEM's Code of Professional Conduct (see http://www.cieem.net/data/files/Resource_Library/Professional_Conduct/Code_of_Professional_Conduct_June_2013.pdf).

    Nevertheless, I feel the frustration and anguish conveyed in your article and can offer similar examples as am sure other readers of this blog (and other blogs) can do to.

    I am not familiar with the detail of the series of applications and so my comments are necessarily generic; but likely to be applicable to varying degrees in the case at Beddington - I would welcome correction or supporting comments.

    The nub of the issue as I see it, as conveyed in the blog, is the lack of enforcement of planning conditions imposed on the developer; and equally the developer's alleged lack to discharge the conditions relating to nature conservation of their own volition.

    This observation highlights a growing and deeply concerning issue within the planning system - the lack of competent ecologists. I note that the London Borough of Sutton seemingly employs a biodiversity officer; but it is not necessarily, and may not have been in this case, within their remit to comment on planning applications. In general, it would not surprise me to discover that in some local authorities, whilst they employ a biodiversity officer (or similarly named position), the planners either don't know, or forget they know there is a specialist in-house and muddle their way through - thus not recognising the importance or significance of the ecology described in the planning application. I am not suggesting that this happened at Beddington - but it could easily do so. And thus, the importance of enforcing the planning condition(s) is missed or just not appreciated. For those local authorities that have no access to an ecologist, they muddle their way through and almost certainly make incorrect decisions (policy-based; or in the worse case scenario, legally flawed decisions).

    To place some context, the Association of Local Government Ecologists (www.alge.org.uk) has reported in November 2013 (see Executive Summary in http://www.cieem.net/data/files/Resource_Library/News/ALGE_Report_on_Ecological_Competence_and_Capacity.pdf) that approximately 35% of local authorities (in England) either employed; or had access to by agreement, to a qualified ecologist. In other words, approximately two-thirds of local authorities were granting or refusing planning permission with no competent individual available to deal with the complexity of ecology (in terms of the ecology per se AND the legislative and policy (national and local) that governs their decisions). In this environment, is it no wonder that decisions are made that are subsequently challenged (at cost to the local authority (and thus indirectly by the tax payer) and developers) that could be dealt with at the submission and determination stages?

    I think the above is a very important factor in general and may have contributed to a lesser or greater extent at Beddington. This erodes public confidence in the process (and professionals too) and does no favours for the developer (negative awareness), the local authority, and it pains me to write this, my profession too.

    Which brings me on to the criticism of commercial ecologists.

    We represent our clients, whoever they may be, to ensure that the documents submitted are legally and policy compliant. Surveys are expected to adhere to recognised guidelines, methods or protocols. Those who are members of CIEEM (I would estimate a significant majority of ecologists who work in this sector are) would expect to be working in accordance with CIEEM's code of professional conduct (or another professional body's such as the Royal Society of Biology). Likewise, planners are expected to work within the Royal Town Planning Institute's conduct.

    The British Standards Institute published in August 2013 a new British Standard - BS42020: 2013 - Biodiversity. Code of practice for planning and development (summary here: http://www.bsigroup.com/LocalFiles/en-GB/biodiversity/BS-42020-Smart-Guide.pdf). It represents best practice and includes for conditions in Clause 9.2.

    So in my view, whilst our profession is open to scrutiny, which I welcome, the frustration at Beddington would appear to be resulting from the lack of a positive outcome as perceived/ viewed by local naturalists and the wider public. Pressure needs to be exerted on the decision maker to enforce the conditions; or seek alternative means which are available to them - for example, a Planning Obligation under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990; or a legal management agreement under section 39 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Perhaps ask this of the local authority - and the local Councillors? Public pressure can become a very persuasive argument if it is well informed.

    So, for any future development, perhaps ask whether the local authority whether they intend to follow BS42020 as the minimum standard; how will they secure the conditions and by what mechanism?

    But please, don't have a go at the ecologists on the ground or in the office.

    Best wishes

    Richard Wilson CEnv MCIEEM

    Likes(10)Dislikes(1)
    • jbc says:

      Richard, thanks for that view from the other side of the table. I'm sure you're right that most ecological consultants are OK, but not all of them are. I have found that there are a small number of "dodgy consultants" who are the consultants of choice for dodgy developers. I regard these people as ecological whores, in that they tell lies and betray what they once cared about, all just for the money. The same names keep cropping up - hopefully without the epithet MCIEEM afterwards.

      Peter, I presume that the name of the consultants is publicly available? Who were they? And is it the case that they made bad recommendations, or that they made good recommendations which were ignored? It would be helpful to see where the blame really lies.

      But even then - where I live developers routinely appeal against their social housing obligations when they build their executive estates. If the council sticks to its original conditions, the Planning Inspectorate - ie the Government - routinely allows the appeal. Social housing provision has a far far greater political profile locally and nationally than wildlife, but even then public policy is ignored if it gets in the way of maximising private profit. So not the council's fault either, but just grim all round.

      Likes(7)Dislikes(0)
    • Peter Alfrey says:

      Hi Richard,
      we have a brilliant biodiversity team in Sutton Council headed up now by Dave Warburton who is basically a total hero, coordinating the Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers who manage some top quality local reserves including master pieces like Roundshaw downs- huge density of Skylarks and prestige chalk grassland sandwiched between Purley Way industrial area and one of the largest social housing estates in the borough. The expertise to make Beddington Farmlands a flagship urban nature reserve is within the borough and within the Conservation Science Group. Viridor refuse to spend the money, set up the correct management structures because they clearly have delayed the whole restoration, degraded the site and held back public access so that they could get permission for the incinerator- the less wildlife and the less the public now about the site the less resistance there would be. Who knows what's next on the rolling agenda.

      The borough biodiversity team report a conflict with the planners and the lack of enforcement of conditions by the Council leadership, basically because the council can't afford to drag Viridor through the courts (or dont want to) . Our local MP , Tom Brake (Deputy leader of the House of Commons!) has basically been completely useless and towed the Lib Dem party line- the Lib Dems have close links to Viridor (see my comment above in reply to Derik Palmer).

      Also its not local naturalist or public perception I'm reporting on here- its the results of the Conservation Management Plan and the failure of that.

      I have not pointed the blame at the commerical ecologists here, I have suggested it is system failure and the commercial ecologists like all stakeholders involved in this are responsible.

      Likes(6)Dislikes(0)
  6. Les Wallace says:

    A brilliant if 'awful' post. So many issues relevant to conservation here it's hard to know where to start to make comments. Funnily enough recently I was talking to someone from the RSPB a few weeks ago who was involved in a restoration project for a quarry in eastern Scotland who got pissed off re the difference between the owner's stated conservation objectives and their actual indifference. The way that a pathetic bit of greenery with one or two pretty birds gets palmed off as biodiversity with the help of paid ecologists is sickening, it happened to us with a multi, multi million pound lottery funded 'eco-park' which actually entailed the loss of wildlife habitat, primarily for sweeping expanses of bog standard close mown grass. To me though the biggest conservation failure here is the incinerator itself. A considerable amount of combustible material will be burnt to get a little bit of 'green' energy back, when the proper application of reduce, reuse, recycle and use of recycled material would have saved far more energy plus created more jobs, saved wilderness from raw material extraction - we are supposed to be moving towards the circular economy, fat chance - lessened the amount of pollution produced as reprocessing is a less intensive process and very possibly the loss of significant opportunities in raising money for good causes through reduce, reuse, recycle. The problem with incineration is that once the massive investment in the plant has been made you are actually obliged to produce vast quantities of 'waste' to feed it for decades, effectively waste reduction and its environmental and social benefits are stuffed. The nature lost as a direct result of building the incinerator may only be the tip of the iceberg re forest lost to plantations to provide pulp and timber, the drilling for petrochemicals to make plastics, the same for throwaway textiles. The incinerator won't stop the horrendous disposable consumption we are blighted by and the apathy that means so many people can't be bothered to use litter bins far less recycling bins, it will depend upon it. Conservation organisations already failed when the incinerator was given the go ahead above and beyond its direct destruction of willdife at Beddington Farms. The poor attention they have given to reduce, reuse, recycle over the years has been pretty scandalous and with it the loss of possible income from waste reducing initiatives that from an environmental, ethical and even financial perspective could have been far better than the highly questionable and compromising deals they have with some major sponsors. Conservation and environmental organisations are failing across the board. It's not just 'sporting' estates, its creating nature habitat in urban areas, protecting existing wildlife sites and the absolutely fundamental requirement of cutting waste. Bit of objective and honest self analysis is required and action taken, I'm not seeing much to be happy about at the moment and its making me wonder what conserv/enviro orgs are for beyond waving banners about climate change.

    Likes(12)Dislikes(2)
  7. Peter Jones says:

    And there I was starting my day quite cheerful and optimistic. It really is a depressing scenario reading this guest blog and one is easily tempted to roll over and give up. Then again I will soldier on, in the knowledge I will be completely ignored.

    Likes(11)Dislikes(0)
  8. Roderick leslie says:

    What a grim situation - and one that will be repeated without a complete change of attitude to how we treat the 'setting' of our cities.

    At one level I am surprised, because in my experience mineral & waste companies have generally cleaned up their act in the last 20 years - from a quite unspeakable low in terms of landfill which has left many old sites potentially lethal due to the complete lack of control of what went into them. The driver has been future planning permissions - which is why the one thing that could influence Viridor is the prospect of wider publicity that forewarns communities in areas they may be seeking future planning permission.

    It is pretty depressing when even the Guardian is now running down the Green Belt. But the truth is, the Green belt has not failed - we have failed the Green belt, and especially an increasingly sclerotic planning system weighed down by the inertia of its own - largely preventative, negative rule book.

    There is, however, a very clear answer and it is encapsulated in the Natural Capital Committee's last report which is a complete game changer and clearly way beyond the comprehension of most of the people its aimed at: that is the finding that 250,000 hectares of 'community woodland', for I think we should read more natural, low intensity management & accessible habitat rather than simply woodland, would generate economic gains of £500 million per annum. Their report is based on experience of increasingly large scale land restoration around our cities and in some of the worst industrially damaged places in the country. Rainham marshes will be the place best known to readers of this blog - but is also part of the problem: at one level Rainham Marshes is an isolated gem snatched from the general aura of despair; at another, it is one part of a growing network of places, all doing slightly different things - for example, some slanted more towards people than wildlife, but in total adding up to the foundations of the complete opposite of the blight that has crept across our most pressured green belts through 'permitted development' and in the absence of any sort of vision as to what we should be achieving. Effectively, as we do more to try and improve the cities themselves we've set a diamond in a ring made out of old sardine can. It is crazy - and it is even more crazy when 'we can't possibly use good farmland for people/birds/ restoring our landscape' is still so widely accepted. But of course, we can't possibly afford it, vcan we ? Well the NCC put paid to that - the bigger question is whether we can afford NOT to do better - and in any case, the money is there. This is not a free market: it is completely controlled by the award of planning permissions which often elevate land values by 100 times - if you eased that back to a still handsome 10 times by requiring 9 has of 'green' in the greenbelt to every ha developed you'd crack it.

    It's the sort of positive vision that might well combat Lynton Crosby politics - I wonder who'll go for it ? It is a very long shot, especially from the worst ever response to a community forest proposal (and, seriously, this did happen): 'You can't plant trees, its the Green Belt' !

    However, the real solutions lie much deeper, in the way the Green Belt has been failed over the past 50 years.

    Likes(8)Dislikes(0)
  9. MK says:

    A disturbing case - thank you Peter (and Mark) for sharing it.

    It points to an abject failure to value and project our urban green spaces properly. It also suggests failure of our statutory designation process - with so much threatened wildlife in one place why wasn't Beddington a SSSI? (I wonder if there might still be a case to answer under the Birds and Habitats Directive anyone?)

    A minor point but for me the right hand column of table two is disappearing off to the right of the page so I can't see what it says...

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
    • Mark says:

      MK - apologies for the missing column of the second table. It only looks like that in some technologies (eg not on my phone!) but it is an absolute b*gger to fix. You are missing a commentary on the rows - which you could probably make up yourself but repeated apologies to you (and Peter).

      Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
  10. Ernest Moss says:

    An appalling, but well written, account of corporate greed and the inherent inability of our planning system to protect valuable natural assets for future generations to enjoy.
    Viridor appear to have a remarkably similar modus operandi and moral compass to Peel Holdings. It makes you wonder what is the point of SINC/SBI/LWS designations - particularly when local planning committees all to often appear to treat them with utter disregard. Look up Chat Moss / Peat Extraction / Peel Holdings for a good example of this.

    Yes there are some self-serving environmental consultants out there, although thankfully in my experience they are in the minority - the problem is the likes of Viridor and Peel only need a handful. As I've said before those who can be proved to have carried out 'sharp practice' should be named and shamed, but the biggest problem by far lies with the general incompetence of many LPAs and local Councillors.

    Likes(4)Dislikes(0)
  11. MK says:

    Oh and this (link from the Beddington Farmlands website):

    "The requested page "http://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/environment/greening-london/biodiversity/sites-importance-nature-conservation" could not be found. "

    Says it all really...

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  12. Kirsty says:

    I am devastated and truly broken hearted. This is my home and my community and it's being polluted and destroyed by greed. I don't consider myself as local 'walking dead' and find this comment bigoted and patronising but very quickly we have noticed there is no regard for the democratic process and irrespective of how many object (just as in Yorkshire with the fracking), it is overlooked. I have nothing to say apart from I am disgusted and jaded by local and, indeed, central politics. It's corrupt, dirty and amoral.

    Likes(7)Dislikes(2)
    • Mark says:

      Kirsty - many thanks for your comment. Stick in there with politics - we need to mobilise and then we will win.

      Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  13. Lisa says:

    I have only been resident in this community for 2 years. In that time the whole incinerator thing has happened and from what I can make out has some rather dodgy looking political activities around it... LibDem associations with Viridor, secret donations to church etc.. However, the blog above is really depressing, that the planning department do not seem to be effective at all in upholding previously agreed eco targets. I suppose the real thing is, what can we do about it? What practical and actual steps can we as a community do to make these ecological targets happen?

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  14. Filbert Cobb says:

    I'm struck by the thought that "Beddington Farmlands" has a nice rustic ring to it - better than "West Croydon Sewage Farm". How wonderful it is that this sewage "farm" attracts such an abundance of species in numbers to gorge on the invertebrates busying themselves recycling the accumulated ordure from a third of a million people while the producers of said ordure stay as far away as possible.

    Thornton Heath Pond didn't have the luck to be filled with excrement so They filled it in as it was a hazard to mail coaches, especially in fog

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  15. John A Burton (JAB) says:

    As a member of the Beddington Sewage Farm Ringing Group back in the late 1950s and early 60s, it is depressing to read this history. Effectively a long history with continuous (more or less) recording is being slowly stranglked. Sad and unnecessary. It just shows how unimportant wildlife is considered. If a wealthy nation (and city) cannot afford to preserve what little is left, what hope is there for the rest of the world.

    Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
  16. Peter Alfrey says:

    I agree John, the only hope now is that enough pressure and/ore encouragement can be put on Viridor to manage the restoration properly. The recent drives by Mark Avery and Chris Packham to encourage front line people power conservation is the best hope I think and for the conservation e-NGOs to get behind that rather than (or even not just) the corporations. RSPB have started RSPB campaigners so seem to be moving off their non-political fence sitting (How can anyone be non-political in conservation- its a political issue as is taking money from corporations like Viridor credits to fund conservation - effectively the RSPB and e-NGOs are acting as the PR vehicle for a corporation- so its nonsense this non-political balderdash- they're anti-nature capitalist organisation facilitators unless they balance things out by getting behind popular movements too). Nothing wrong with taking money from these corporations to use it against them elsewhere! Anyway good to see the RSPB moving towards this campaigning and they should be getting behind the Avery/Packham people push on the Hen Harrier issue and also the exciting possibility that Mark Avery has mentioned in Birdwatch magazine of the Hen Harrier becoming a symbol for front line people power conservation- including I'd like to think taking on corporations like Viridor that are destroying our nature reserve network; any areas that have nature conservation designations should be fiercely defended against corporations. Where the market and the planning system has failed that's where the people need to step in.

    I think enough public pressure needs to be put on organisations like Viridor to the point where it starts effecting them financially. At the end of the day the reason for them defaulting on their obligations is presumably for bottom line cosmetics (even though in the long run this kind of short term strategy leads to an own goal for society at large and therefore Viridor too- they're part of society so by bringing down the quality of environment and the economy that supports is bringing themselves down too). If public/ pressure can start to address this market failure its a win win for everyone involved. Its encouraging to see groups like this https://www.facebook.com/350.org/videos/10154191377177708/
    beginning to mobilise large numbers of people to disrupt production of development sites- its this kind of disruption which will help affect the bottom line of these offenders. Not just this approach too (which seems to be unacceptable to a lot of people in conservation- why?? but seems to be the case) but also making more and more noise about the way that companies like Viridor can get away with destroying nature and local communities by more petitioning signing. more lobbying MPs for whatever that's worth (the corporations have the power not the MPs), demonstration and personally I think co-coordinating some of that petition signing direct into planning portals with regards to planning permissions- thats where those signatures are really really important. I'd even say we should block Viridor phone lines and computer systems with thousands and thousands of complaints but again I never seem to get much support for this kind of extremism!!??- complaining is what the British do best- why not make good use of the collective skill! 🙂 ) To me it seems the best and justified way of making a real difference.
    I'm confident that the solution to improving the situation at Beddington Farmlands is in theory reactively straight forward if we can mobilise enough public pressure against Viridor. Beddington Farmlands could be used as model, where a strategy and some kind of organisation is developed that can be replicated to other areas where corporations are doing something similar on the protected network for nature across the UK- particularly the SSSis, LNRs and SINCs which are less well defended than the SPAs and Ramsar sites (which the e-NGOs can handle better. People power conservation needs to step up to protect the finer grained network.

    Without that kind of people pressure and mobilization I'm also confident that all is lost and yes I agree with precedents like this where a corporation can quite literally get away with murder (of sorts in an ecological sense)- there isn't much hope for the future.

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  17. It is terrible that corporations can get away with not fulfilling their pre-agreed planning conditions, with local councils just allowing them to "get away" with it seemingly with no repercussions (I doubt the same would happen to the average man on the street if they didn't follow the planning rules!), but sadly it seems to be a tale repeated all across the country, the wishes of local people and protection of the environment come second to money making schemes and corporations desires.

    Locally to me (and you sort of Mark!) MK Dons are currently trying to submit planning for a large complex of football pitches and a hotel etc. on an area of Farmland in South Northamptonshire (Cosgrove) WITHOUT having to implement an Environmental Impact Survey! This on an area with breeding Skylark, and nearby Lapwing, that is already prone to flooding and really isn't a suitable location. Sadly I feel the (not so) local planners (it is Milton Keynes basically but being judged from afar) will let them get away with this.

    Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
  18. Abi says:

    This is such an important post.

    Is there anywhere (blog, website) that case studies such as this, of failures of the planning system to protect biodiversity, can be collated?

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Leave Your Comment

Your email will not be published or shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*