Some plants around Perry Street Farm surprisingly include Sea Campion

Perry Street Farm, largely used for horse grazing, is now a Borough Grade 2 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC). It is private, but viewable from the north and west sides from public roadways and from the east side from Stoneham Park.

The most interesting find recently was of a single plant of Sea Campion (Silene uniflora) on the Gascoyne Drive ‘triangle’ of land by the A206/Perry Street roundabout. It was spotted at early dusk on August 8th. This is a native, but here is almost certainly a garden escape or from imported soil. It may have been overlooked before due to an unfavourable timing of mowings. Another escapee was the double form of Sneezewort, which was found here a few years ago.

Sea Campion between the A206 and Gascoyne Drive/Perry Street Farm, where it is almost certainly of garden origin or from imported soil.

Closer view of the Sea Campion flowers. 

Sea Campion. View from above. Close to dusk, but narrowish, glaucous leaves can be made out.

Common Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) also grows on the triangle and the farm itself.

Somewhat ghostly-looking Common Toadflax at dusk, Perry Street Farm in the background.

The Scotch or Burnet Rose (Rosa spinosissima – syn pimpinellifolia) is a native, but not in Bexley, and has a number of selected horticultural forms. One such, which larger hips, is picture in Stoneham Park by the farm fence. 

Scotch or Burnet Rose, selected form, planted by the farm fence.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), a member of the Carrot family, is a thinly scattered plant in the Borough, usually found where the sward is not too thick and there was some bare ground, at least to start with. 

Fennel in Stoneham Park by the farm boundary.

Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) itself grows on the northern margin of the farm. 

Wild Carrot pokes through the farm fence by Gascoyne Drive.

Despite the scientific name, Common Mallow (Malva sylvatica) is way more often seen out of woods than in them. Its leaves can be cooked and eaten.

Common Mallow by the Perry Street farm fenceline. Wild Carrot behind it.

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) is a plant long ago introduced the Britain from continental Europe, and it has been and can be used to make soap. It grows on and at the margin of the farm.

A white-flowered Soapwort by Gascoyne Drive. There are garden forms with other colours, and also double flowers.

Lucerne/Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) shows a considerable range of flower colour in the Borough, mainly from pinkish through shades of violet purple, and sometimes near-black, but also beautiful green/yellow/gold/bronze colours where there is an influence of hybridisation with the closely related, yellow-flowered Sickle Medick.

Lucerne (though possibly part of a hybrid swarm), provides nectar and colour by Perry Street roundabout.

Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is a reasonably frequent member of the Pea family in Bexley, whose attractiveness is best appreciated close up, so is probably overlooked by most people. 

Bird’s-foot Trefoil brightens the scene as late afternoon traffic builds up.

The farm was proposed for survey as a potential SINC by Bexley Natural Environment Forum, with London Wildlife Trust agreeing it merited that status in their draft report of December 2013 . Woefully it took Bexley Council’s relevant Cabinet member another 2 years and 10 months after the close of the public consultation in February 2014 to sign off on the draft SINC review, finally doing so in December 2016. Yet more evidence that it sees wildlife as subservient to everything else.

The citation is as follows:

A large area of grazed horse paddocks surrounding farm buildings. The ruderal and grassland habitats support a wide variety of typical plants but also includes a small population of the London notable hare’s-foot clover (Trifolium arvense). It is likely to be important for invertebrates and probably also supports reptiles such as the common lizard and slow-worm. The large expanse of undisturbed open grasslands offer important feeding opportunities for starling, house sparrow, kestrel, lapwing, house martins and finches in winter.‘ 

Text and all photos by Chris Rose.

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Thames21 team tackles two fly-tipping incidents by Thames Road Wetland

Local Thames21 staff and volunteers have recently been tackling two ugly fly-tipping incidents adjacent to Thames Road Wetland, with a third yet to be sorted out. The second, and largest, of these might have been avoided had Bexley Council acted on appeals to sort out the insecure gate onto the wetland in the wake of a previous dumping event three and a half years ago.

In April a considerable quantity of household waste was dumped in the River Wansunt by the pipe bridge, just before it enters the wetland. This could easily have been taken to the official Council dump just over the road. Most sickeningly the material included pots of paint with the lids off, some of which had spilt into the water. There were a number of children’s toys in good condition, plus a large number of romantic fiction paperbacks, which could have found another home or been recycled. A piece of paper with a Maiden Lane, Crayford, address on it, was found in one of the  bags of rubbish. All the material was removed to our usual collection point at the end of By-way 105 for the Council to take away. 

Household waste dumped in the River Wansunt in April 2017 (Photo: Chris Rose)

In June a very large quantity of material was driven through the gate by the railway bridge, and along a track at the east end of the wetland – with the gate and first part of the track sitting on Bexley Council-owned land – and was then driven up and over the sewer pipe bank and dumped in the old pallet yard on unmanaged private land.

The large amount of fly-tipping on the pallet yard next to Thames Road Wetland, June 2017. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Rubble, brick s and plastics dumped in the
pallet yard. (Photo: Chris Rose)

This included toys, plastic beads, hundreds of polystyrene fragments, good quality paving bricks, rubble and plastic bags. T21 has emptied some of the rubble onto existing piles as it is inert and can be used by reptiles. Some of the smaller items have been removed from the site but most still remains due to lack of time so far. It is not clear whether Bexley Council or the landowner are going to sort it out. The horrendous amount of plastic and polystyrene bits will require something like a car vacuum to remove.

Small plastic beads and polystyrene fragments will be very difficult to remove and could in the meantime be a hazard for grazing Rabbits and Horses. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Again an address was found in one of the bagged portions of rubbish, this time on a customer despatch note. The address is on Murchison Avenue, Bexley. 

It should be noted that as TRW site manager I had asked Council fly-tipping officials (in writing) to sort out the gate security three and a half years ago, after a fly-tipping incident up on the sewer bank where a vehicle had again been used. There had clearly been several other fly-tipping events on the pallet yard prior to this. This the Council did not do, despite the vehicle having crossed its land and despite plastics blowing back onto the wetland land it owns. In the absence of any help from the Council, the whole pile of sewer bank material was removed in two sessions by a Thames21-led  team of schoolchildren and a group of corporate volunteers. 

Both the recent incidents have been reported to Bexley Council and the police, who have been given the addresses found. We have yet to hear that the individuals at those addresses have been contacted, or that any other progress has been made in tracking down the culprits. As of 27th July only Thames21 had removed any of the dumped material. However, on that morning someone had bolted up the gate so it couldn’t be opened, and had festooned it with ‘Police – do not cross’ tape, which is a start. 

The gate access problem has been sorted out at last – at least temporarily. (Photo: Chris Rose)

In other developments, some new pallets that had been dumped with the other rubbish have been cut up and turned into bug hotels but, unfortunately, some mindless individuals have dumped two shopping trolleys in the Wansunt where we removed the previous fly-tipping, and we have not yet got them out due to other commitments.

Dumped pallets have been turned into (as yet incomplete) ‘bug hotels’. (Photo: Chris Rose)

We would far rather be spending our time on habitat improvements and tackling invasive species, rather than being sidetracked by people who go out of their way to dump rubbish rather than dispose of it responsibly. 

Chris Rose. Thames Road Site Manager, Thames21.    

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Contrasting Composites at Thames Road Wetland

Some of the composites (Daisy and Dandelion family – now known as Asteraceae) currently in flower at Thames Road Wetland are pictured below. Contrary to the site’s name, there are a variety of conditions, including reed-swamp and hot, south-facing dry banking. This has given rise to a diverse array of plants with different habitat requirements and preferences. 

The Marsh Sow-thistle (Sonchus palustris), the most spectacular native composite in Bexley, is a nationally scarce species that became extinct in the capital some years ago when its last site in London, just 600m away on Crayford Marshes, was badly damaged. Fortunately an astute botanist had saved some seeds and grown them in pots. Plants were introduced to the haven provided by Thames Road Wetland in 2011 and now reach 9 feet tall when in flower, dying back in the winter to leave tall woody branching stems. It appears to be a plant where few seedlings make it to maturity, but once they do they are long-lived. This year, a number of seedlings have been spotted along a ditch margin and a few other places.

Marsh Sow-Thistles at Thames Road Wetland, 26th July 2017  (Chris Rose)

Marsh Sow-thistle flowers and developing seed heads, Thames Road Wetland, 26th July 2017 (Chris Rose)

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) bucks the trend for most native composites to be yellow or white, and is now a plant in cultivation. It was first spotted growing on the sewer pipe bank seven years ago. It would appear that the ponies that roam ‘free’ over this area don’t find it palatable. 

Chicory growing on a bank adjacent to Thames Road Wetland, July 26th 2017 (Chris Rose)

Ploughman’s Spikenard (Inula conyzae) has grown in very small numbers on the Thames Road bank for the last few years now, and indicates that there is some chalky or limestone material in the gravelly substrate here. Lacking prominent ray florets (that perform the function of petals in other plants), the flowers are not particularly showy, but are abundant. 

Ploughman’s Spikenard growing on the Thames Road Wetland road bank, 27th July 2017 (Chris Rose)

Ploughman’s Spikenard, side view, Thames Road Wetland, 27th July 2017 (Chris Rose)

Narrow-leaved Ragwort (Senecio inaequidens), is a short-lived perennial from southern Africa. According to DEFRA it was first recorded in the UK as far back as 1836, but only began to spreading in any numbers at the turn of the current millennium, probably from populations established in continental Europe. It favours areas disturbed by human activity, often with bare ground. In Bexley it is frequent in parts of the Belvedere area, less so elsewhere, and occasionally crops up as an isolated roadside plants in the suburban area. It was an early colonist of the open road bank at Thames Road Wetland, soon after widening, and was at first weeded out to favour native vegetation. However, it is unlikely to ever be eradicated from this country and in its current habitats seems fairly benign. Now it has settled down amongst the thin grasses, Perennial Rocket and other colonist species tolerating the hot thin soil here, without overly dominating or casting too much shade, it is left as a cover plant and an important late summer provider of nectar and pollen which continues flowering long after Common Ragwort is over.  

Narrow-leaved Ragwort on the Thames Road bank, 26th July 2017 (Chris Rose)

Narrow-leaved Ragwort on close-up. Thames Road Wetland. (Chris Rose)

 

Chris Rose. Thames21. Thames Road Wetland Site Manager.

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Crossness Nature Reserve – Kids Go Wild (Round one …)

We ran the first of two family events titled ‘Kids Go Wild’ on Saturday 15th July. Children and grandchildren got to try their hand at pond-dipping, where there was some friendly competition going on as to who could get the most Water Scorpions and biggest fish (Stickleback).

Children pond-dipping at the Crossness Kids Go Wild event.

They did some mini-beast hunting where the kids (and adults!) had all kinds of fun turning over logs and lifting up refugia. A highlight was catching a Grasshopper in a bug pot, as well as a number of Woodlice with lots of young.

Holding a Grasshopper in a bug pot for closer examination.

Some bird watching from the bird hide revealed a Pochard female with six young, as well as two Little Grebe chicks, and attendees were also able to take advantage of the early Blackberry crop and look forward to the freshest apple and blackberry crumble that evening. 

Birdwatching from the well-appointed hide.

In addition to the planned activities, a large Slow Worm was seen under some reptile refugia, as well as the tail end of another (after my big introduction, it disappeared far too quickly!). Four Common Lizards were seen by some, and the youngsters also got to see a Wood Mouse that was nest-building under some refugia laid down for reptiles. The obligatory petting of horses on the way out ended the afternoon nicely, and a highlight for me was when one young attendee claimed ‘This is the best day I’ve ever had!’ While I’m not sure what his granddad thought of such a statement, it certainly made my day!

Another Kids Go Wild event is scheduled for the school holidays. Taking place here at Thames Water’s Crossness Nature Reserve on Wednesday 9th August, please book your place with me, the site manager, Karen Sutton, by emailing Karen.sutton@thameswater.co.uk 

Karen Sutton, Biodiversity Team Manager

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Karen welcomes student visitors to Crossness Nature Reserve

I entertained some very enthusiastic (despite the rain) young naturalists at Crossness Nature Reserve last week. Students from Hertfordshire’s Simon Balle Academy came all the way over to south-east London when they heard about our Slow Worms.

Students at Crossness.

Two very clever students are involved in the STEM Club (Science Technology Engineering & Maths) at their school, and were given the task of creating an investigation to carry out and present findings at the Big Bang Fair Eastern, held at the Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford.

The two students carried out a project on Slow Worms. Their hard work clearly paid off, because their presentation came first in the Biology section! This means that they’ll be going to the National Finals in Birmingham next year. Since they are continuing to develop their project, they decided that broadening their understanding of these legless lizards would help them to progress their project in preparation for the final next year.

Checking reptile refugia.

The proud father of one of these students, a fellow Thames Water employee – told me that his some Michael, and friend Thomas, were motivated to make Slow Worms the subject of their project because they were aware of the decline in their population and they wanted to help make people aware.

The Simon Balle students are going to develop their project further by creating a website, as well as awareness videos. They hope to get the message out that we need to make our gardens and green spaces Slow Worm friendly in order to try to halt the decline.

The students were fortunate enough to see – and handle – several Slow Worms at Crossness, and they saw a number of Common Lizards. With the less-than-ideal weather reducing the bird, dragonfly and butterfly activity, they were instead introduced to Barn Owl pellets and sent away with a big bag of pellets to form an environmental investigation next term (Barn Owl pellets are the regurgitated indigestible remains of their small mammal prey: by teasing apart the fur matter, it reveals the bones of their mammalian prey. These can be identified from jaw bones and teeth found in the pellets, and assumptions about the diversity of the local mammal population can be made). I think I can see another STEM project on the horizon!

I was rather worried when the kids talked about deer running across their gardens, and the wildlife-rich forests right on their doorstep. Coming all the way over to an urban, industrial environment in south-east London seemed as though it couldn’t possibly compare, however they loved their day and assured me that they plan to return.

Karen Sutton, Biodiversity Team Manager

 

Posted in Crossness, Crossness Nature Reserve, Erith Marshes, Reptiles and Amphibians | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cory/Borax fields found to be of regional, possibly national, importance for invertebrates (post outline planning permission …..). Campaigner pressure appears to be paying dividends.

Further wildlife survey work, required by Bexley Council as part of its granting of outline planning permission for the building by Cory of large data centres on open fields next to Crossness Nature Reserve, has revealed them to be of regional and possibly national importance for invertebrates, but only AFTER outline planning permission was granted.

The Phase 2 report states that: ‘The invertebrate survey recorded a total of 414 taxa of invertebrates made up of aquatic and terrestrial species. Of these, 42 were Nationally Scarce, seven were Red Data Book, and 59 were considered to be of local[ised] occurrence.’

The need for a more thorough examination of the site, including at times of year more appropriate for invertebrates – given the key open mosaic habitat present – was a core argument of objectors to the Cory scheme. It is of some concern that such a finding should only be made after the granting of outline planning permission by Bexley Council. Even if you believe that ‘mitigation’ for habitat loss is acceptable, and anything more than a short-term fix against a background of ever more ‘development’, it is clear that you cannot know whether you can actually fulfill any requirements for this until you know what species are present to begin with. And if you do not know this, then it is not clear how you can credibly claim that there will be no loss of biodiversity resulting from a ‘development’, as Bexley Council is wont to do. Nor how you can be discharging your legal duty to take biodiversity properly into account when making a planning decision. 

We were told by the now-retired Head of Planning Susan Clark,  in the planning committee meeting that looked at the basics of the scheme, that if various future conditions could not be met, then the whole thing could still be thrown out. However, we remain sceptical given Bexley’s heavily pro-‘development’ position and its approach to key wildlife sites at the moment. No conditions were, in fact, set with regard to breeding red-listed birds, or for the nationally very rare Shrill Carder Bee which is found on adjoining land at Crossness and may also use the fields – not even that Cory should look for it at the appropriate time of year given the verifiable records from the Nature Reserve . 

A Shrill Carder, the UK’s rarest bee, has been found several times at Crossness, but has yet to be taken into account in the decisions surrounding building on the adjacent Cory/Borax fields which have good habitat for it. Recent recognition that the fields are of significant value for invertebrates should help fix this – IF Bexley Council presses for living roofs as a result. (Photo: Karen Sutton)

Indeed Bexley Natural Environment Forum submitted a raft of questions and complaints to Bexley Council about the way this application was handled, including missing information in previous ‘ecology’ survey reporting. Even the author of that admitted to being surprised that this material had been presented as a final report when it was not meant to be. Moreover the second report admits that ‘The lack of field work completed in the late summer meant that a number of insect groups that would not ordinarily be expected to present until later in the survey season would have been under represented by the survey. In particular it is considered likely that some species of Aculeate Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps) and Hemiptera (true bugs) may be under-recorded…..’. so that the presence of the later-flying Shrill Carder in the area is still not ‘officially’ acknowledged.

At least there are some further positive outcomes. The additional report, having stated at 4.25 that ‘the large scale permanent loss of the existing terrestrial semi-natural habitat resource associated with development related Site clearance and construction would inevitably result in a significant reduction in the overall invertebrate abundance and conservation value of the Site as the existing semi-natural habitats will be permanently replaced by buildings and hard standings.’ 

and 

4.26 Using the approach to ecological impact assessment outlined in the 2015 report, this would constitute an impact of high magnitude on a receptor of at least regional importance and possibly national importance and would constitute a negative impact of major significance.

does then go on to make various recommendations that are more strongly in line with those objectors want to see implemented if building work does go ahead. In particular, the section on living (green or brown) roofs is worded in a stronger and more positive fashion than in previous documents, and does now feature some recognition that ‘mitigation’ for ground-nesting (red-listed) birds (such as Skylark) might now come into the equation:

Living roofs
4.33 The extent to which the roofs of the new buildings will need to accommodate essential infrastructure associated with, for example, air conditioning, is not known at this stage. That said, however, the use of “living roofs” on part of the new buildings within the Site should be given consideration as part of detailed design to provide habitat for invertebrates and, potentially if large enough, ground-nesting birds.
4.34 In its simplest form, a roof consisting of a shallow compacted hoggin surface that is allowed to colonise passively with a pioneer plant community could provide significant opportunity for invertebrates in the medium to long term, and would require minimal maintenance. This would also go a long way to compensating the loss of valuable invertebrate habitat within the Site and may not prove particularly costly to provide.

The following is also a step forward, with BNEF and Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve calling for retention of native flora to the greatest extent possible, rather than tidied up ‘corporate’ plantings.

4.31 It is recommended that the use of a “grass” paving system such as Grasscrete or MatsGrids is utilised on a large scale as this would provide voids between the hard driving surface that could be filled with compacted hoggin material (as opposed to more standard soil and grass seed) which would naturally develop a pioneer plant community of potential value to a range of invertebrates. A range of different hoggin materials differing in their chemistry and particle size distribution could be employed, including ground surface materials retained from the existing Site in order to maximise plant and invertebrate diversity.

FoCNR has attempted throughout to maintain an open and constructive channel of communication with Cory, despite its fundamental objection to building on the fields and is now pushing, behind the scenes, for these recommendations to be accepted, as well as for proposed ‘green walling’ to be of the crib type, allowed to colonise naturally so that it becomes more akin to open mosaic habitat, rather than some artificially-watered verdant sheet of plants not native to the site – more redolent of ‘an office building in Belgravia’, as one commentator has put it. 

‘Save our Skylarks’ protesters by the threatened fields at Crossness in April 2016. They have now been found to be of great significance for rare invertebrates.  (Photo: Richard Spink)

‘Nasty’ protestor pressure, coupled with ‘Nice’ engagement may be getting us somewhere, and we will have to be on our toes for the more detailed design planning applications that will come forward, and upon which the outcome regarding these matters will be decided.  

Chris Rose, Vice-chair of Bexley Natural Environment Forum

Posted in Bexley Council, BNEF, Crossness, Crossness Nature Reserve, Demonstration, development threat, Erith Marshes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bexley ‘Growth Strategy’ claims sustainability but knows no bounds. Suggestions for comments. Deadline (now changed to) Friday 28th July 5p.m.

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO 28th JULY – so you might now be able to read it and comment. You don’t have to say something about every aspect, but just the ones that bother you the most. The more people criticise various anti-nature/wildlife proposals the better. 

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At 117 pages, if you hadn’t read the ‘Growth Strategy’ already, you probably won’t manage to, let alone write a response, by the deadline for comments (send to growthstrategy@bexley.gov.uk  by 5pm Friday 28th July). Here’s a summary of what it’s about, along with some suggestions further down the post for comments you could make if you want to put in a ‘last minute’ submission. It’s mainly about  lots and lots more houses/concrete and ‘grey infrastructure’, with little detail on how the claim of a net increase in biodiversity can result from this, plus repeated misuse of the word ‘sustainable’  There will be further stages in the process, but some opposition/criticism now would help later on. If you haven’t time to look at the longer comments (below), please write in and say that you do not share Bexley’s apparent optimism about boundless resource availability (energy, water, raw materials etc.) and do not believe real sustainability has been taken into account, that you object to a net loss of ground level open  space (public or not), that you object to building on designated Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (including building roads), to more road traffic bridges over the Thames and to the failure to set out a clear and credible vision for nature in Bexley at the heart of this document which instead comprises pages of text dealing mainly with yet more with human ‘demands’.   

[Yes I know it would have been helpful to post this a lot sooner and to have made a better job of  it. Unfortunately I am very much up against the deadline on this myself and have only recently finished analysing the document properly. Sorry!]  

IN SHORT:

Bexley Council’s new ‘Growth Strategy’ knows no bounds.

Bexley’s existing Core Strategy (Local Development Framework), signed off after public consultation and a formal public hearing as recently as February 2012, agreed that 4,545 new dwellings would be built by 2026, a figure accepted as adequate by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate. This had mushroomed to 22,000 when Bexley first announced its ‘Growth Strategy’ plans in 2014. This latest version expresses a desire to see this initial burst of ‘growth’ drive even more ‘growth’ (page 3), with a jump to 31,500 more by 2047 (para 2.3.4), with substantial new ‘infrastructure’ required to enable and support this. There is absolutely no suggestion anywhere in the document that there should be, or will ever have to be, any upper limit to all this ‘development’ into the future. 

Depending on how you do the calculation (baseline dates used are not standardised) the Council is advocating an increase in the Borough’s population of between 14.4% to 18.5% by around 2036.

We are offered 8 and up to 15 storey blocks, so that parts of the Borough may end up looking like Lewisham around the railway station there suddenly does. Garden-grabbing, something Bexley Council currently opposes, will be given the green light under a policy of ‘densification’. 

Future state of Bexley … Parts of the north of the Borough could look much like the centre of Lewisham now does – albeit with slightly shorter buildings – under Bexley’s ‘densification’ agenda. Even the more suburban areas could end up with 8-storey blocks, implying that ‘garden-grabbing’ will now be supported.

The Council expects a lot of this new housing to be fitted in by rationalisation of existing industrial land. There is an acceptance that land is running out in the plan for ‘transitional’ new parking areas that would then have to be built on, with the hope that car use can be significantly reduced in the meantime. The logic in relation to wider resource limitations  is not pursued.

Wildlife gets very short shrift compared to the mountain of detail about more concrete. There will be a net loss of ground-level open space. Two Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation are slated to have housing built on part of them (east side of Southmere lake and wildlife ‘rough’ in the recreation ground by Slade Green station). Two more on Crayford Marshes are threatened with being sliced through with a new by-pass scheme. There are aspirations for green roofs, but not particularly to replace wildlife habitat, and this ignores Bexley’s inability to enforce its policy for them on certain buildings in certain areas already. The claim that wildlife will be enhanced through the Biodiversity Action Plan is a bit of a joke given  that it’s two years out of date, concentrates on a handful of habitats and species and is not, therefore, a recipe for net biodiversity increase. There are no proposals for a wider set of benchmarks or monitoring to verify (or not) this assertion. Instead we can expect wildlife to be dealt with in a piecemeal fashion at individual planning application meetings, and to keep losing. In short, there is no clear vision for the future of nature in Bexley. To proceed on the basis that this should be dealt with in some tangential document – if at all – and not be at the heart of this one shows how backward Bexley Council’s approach and thinking is.  

The whole ‘strategy’ is part of a bigger plan to build on lots more of the Thames Gateway area, make Bexley part of ‘city of the east’ – because room is running out elsewhere – and to increase the population of London from 8 to 11 million, supported by both Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan.  

The ‘Growth Strategy’ is a strategy for a mid 2oth century mindset where resources were supposedly unlimited and there would be a techno-fix for everything. On the face of it there are some worthy ‘aspirational’ statements and ambitions here and there about car use, minimising resource use, sustainable urban drainage etc., but fundamentally it is a more more more business-as-usual-plan, lacking the required kind of leadership, that will compound the challenges of an increasingly populated, resource-limited 21st century, rather than helping to seriously start ameliorating them.   

SOME QUESTIONS TO POSE

– The Council claims that the massive change from 4,500 to 31,500 proposed new homes is because the ‘low growth’ scenario immediately following  the 2008 ‘crash’ no longer applies and we are in a different situation now. Can it explain why, at the Core Strategy examination in public, Council officers proudly stated that they had, quite simply,  been able to keep new development projections down to what was a reasonable level for the Borough and its character. Why is 31,500 now reasonable?

–  Will the Council confirm that despite occasional reference to ‘new’ open spaces and parks, there will be a net loss of ground level open space and that parts of two designated wildlife sites are slated for building on and two others will be cut across by a by-pass if Council plans come to fruition? How does it square this with its claim that there will be a net increase in biodiversity?

– How will recourse to the Biodiversity Action Plan, which is two years out of date, relatively narrow in focus and has not been reviewed by stakeholders as to outcomes, deliver on the claim that there will be a net increase in biodiversity as a whole?

– Given that this ‘Growth Strategy’ is already proposing building on more key wildlife sites, in addition to several others where it has approved ‘development’ in recent years, how can the Council claim that wildlife has a secure and abundant long-term future in Bexley, particularly less common and habitat specialist species?

– Does Bexley Council agree that that without an adult debate about all sources of population change and how best to address them in a responsible, equitable and consensus-led way, it – or someone else – may well be back in 2025 proposing thousands more new dwellings? In explicitly wishing for boundless ‘development’, isn’t it true that the Council has decided to try and duck out of the awkward questions posed by real-world resource limits, rather than show some leadership and initiate a debate.

– The word ‘sustainable’, is repeatedly used. This should mean living within real world resource constraints and not jeopardising other species and future generations by doing otherwise. Why does the ‘Growth Strategy’ fail to spell out and address the size of the increase in Bexley’s resource consumption footprint that will result from this major proposed increase in population, and the extra downsizing (about 15%) required by existing residents, not just to keep it the same but to deliver the net decreases required by carbon emissions targets, or the UK’s commitment to bring resource consumption within sustainable levels by 2020 (which would mean a two-thirds cut)?  Does the Council abdicate responsibility and think this should be left to the rest of the country or to the future to sort out? 

– The document focuses heavily on buildings, their placement and design. There is no reference to the need to the zero-carbon buildings in order to avoid this ‘growth’ significantly increasing Bexley’s emissions. The existing Core Strategy meekly committed to identifying a site for zero-carbon build. Has that even happened?

– What steps will the Council take to ensure that this new build does not become prey to ‘investors’ seeking assets and not a home? Will the Council seek to prioritise housing models that will keep as much income from rented property circulating within the Borough as possible? 

Bexley Council’s de facto policy for ‘protecting and enhancing biodiversity’ is to cram it into even less space. This Google Earth image shows the part of Crayford Marshes to be lost to a railfreight depot thanks to Bexley Council approval of the plans. Now it wants to cut a by-pass across it as well. 

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Chris Rose,  Bexley Natural Environment Forum

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Bexley Council plans by-pass across Crayford Marshes. Proposal buried in 117 page ‘Growth Strategy’. More potential damage to SSSI contender. Relevant to, but not mentioned at railfreight depot planning meeting.

Bexley Council is proposing further major damage to one of the Borough’s best wildlife areas, one that is of London-wide and potentially national importance and has often been mentioned as a potential Site of Special Scientific Interest. Detailed examination of the 117 page ‘Growth Strategy’ (comments to  growthstrategy@bexley.gov.uk  deadline 5pm Friday 28th July) has revealed a ‘hidden’ Bexley Council plan for a bypass running south-east from the junction of Ray Lamb Way and Wallhouse Road, across the Crayford Marsh Metropolitan Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, Moat Land and then the Crayford Agricultural and Landfill SINC towards the recently approved railfreight depot which itself will destroy a large part of that, and will also be on Green Belt land. It would presumably somehow link to the depot’s proposed bridge over the Cray and thence reach the bottom of Bob Dunn Way (the A206).

The rather unclear map showing this, with an unlabelled ‘arrow’ symbol (the key for which was 15 pages earlier) and text on page 82, were easy to overlook in a hurried read through of the whole publication on a computer screen, and we are grateful to Slade Green Forum member Roy Hillman for bringing this to our attention, as well as for producing the consolidated and much clearer map reproduced below.

Download the PDF file .

The relevant text says:

6.3.61 A range of local transport enhancements will be secured, including: a new segregated public transport route through the area, connecting the station and town centre to adjacent development sites and beyond; junction/interchange improvements which reduce severance and congestion; and, in the longer term, a Slade Green by-pass, which would redirect heavy traffic from the remaining
industrial areas away from Manor Road and directly onto the strategic road network.

This raises a number of issues:

i) It would destroy habitat on a potential SSSI site, which we were told would now be managed for wildlife after the railfreight depot approval, undermining its chances of being so designated, and thus gaining statutory protection

ii) It would destroy further habitat on the Crayford agricultural and landfill SINC, including that of red-listed birds in danger of Bexley and London-level extinction as breeding species, when we were told at the planning meeting that what would be left after the railfreight depot would be enough to protect such species after various  habitat ‘improvements’ 

ii) Why did Bexley Council not mention this plan at the planning meeting? It relates directly to the credibility of claims made by the Biodiversity Officer about net gains for wildlife arising out of the railfreight depot scheme, which are in large part dependent on the extent, quality and protection from further damage of the rest of the ‘Crayford Marshes  area, and his statement that the depot would leave the high quality habitat on the east side of the landfill site – where the road would almost certainly now have to go – and only destroy the ‘poor’ habitat to the west, so could happily be approved from a wildlife point of view.  Since said officer sits in the planning  department, and since said department has been working on the ‘Growth Strategy’ for at least 3 years, this conflict must have been known about at the time of that meeting.

iii) It will fragment what is left of that wider area for wildlife, especially ground-dwelling animals

iv) It further embeds the Crayford Ness Industrial estate which some have said should be removed as part of the general consolidation of industrial land planned by Bexley.  Removal would give back to wildlife a similar amount of land as taken for the railfreight depot, as well as deal with concerns over emergency vehicle access. 

v) Rather than take traffic out of the CNI away from Slade Green and off to the east, a by-pass is just as likely to be used as a faster route to get from Erith to the QE2 bridge or from Dartford to the Proposed Gallions Reach or Belvedere bridges, further increasing traffic on Manor Way next to a housing estate

vi) The ‘Growth Strategy’ has all the buzz terminology about the marshes being a resource for local people, promoting well-being etc. but in reality wants to further slice it up and reduce its remaining wildness with yet more tarmac.

vii) It flies in the face of Dartford Council’s decision to quite reasonably vote against the Cray bridge out of the railfreight depot as being contrary to its conservation policies and, in particular, its ambition to cut traffic pollution and congestion in its Borough

Whilst Bexley says this by-pass is a long term aim, it is generally best to knock these things on the head before they develop any momentum. Please submit an objection to this plan, and sorry for the late notice on our part – putting together a comprehensive response to the Growth Strategy has taken a lot of time.

Chris Rose. Vice-chair, Bexley Natural Environment Forum.  

 

 

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Dragonfly and damselfly survey events in Bexley – no previous experience needed to get involved!

As part of its Water for Wildlife programme, London Wildlife Trust is surveying a number of sites from July into September 2017 to record Dragonfly and Damselfly species and numbers . No particular prior knowledge is required to join in. There are surveys on the Cray between Foots Cray Meadows and Thames Road Wetland, along the Shuttle (tbc), at Lesnes Abbey Woods and at sites in Thamesmead. Please contact David Courtneidge as below. Provision of a mobile phone number will enable him to notify late cancellations, since this work is highly weather-dependent.  

Programme of Surveying – July to September 2017

All surveys will start at 11:00 with an approximate end goal of 14:00. The staff member leading the survey may need to cancel a survey if weather is inappropriate, and will text you on the number given. If this is your first survey with us please come 15 minutes earlier to fill out some details. Please bring binoculars or camera, sturdy footwear and appropriate clothing for the weather conditions. Please can you also bring a packed lunch and water. Please note: Dates with TBC are yet to be fully confirmed, but we are endeavouring to confirm all dates and sites ASAP. All hyperlinks are to indicate the meeting point for the start of the survey.  To book and for further information contact David Courtneidge at dcourtneidge@wildlondon.org.uk or 07834 867422

July

– Tuesday 11th Crossway Canal Thamesmead to Thamesmead Ecology Park. Meet Thamesmead library.

– Tuesday 18th Birchmere Lake Thamesmead to Tump 53. Meet Thamesmead library, Binsey Walk. 

– Wednesday 19th Foots Cray Meadows to Thames Road Wetlands. Meet FCM visitor centre along track off Rectory Lane.

August

– Wednesday 2nd Lesnes Abbey Wood. Meet by visitor centre.

– TBC Thursday 10th River Cray and River Shuttle

September

– Thursday 7th Crossway Canal Thamesmead to Thamesmead Ecology Park Meet Thamesmead library, Binsey Walk. 

– Friday 22nd Birchmere Lake Thamesmead to Tump 53. Meet Thamesmead library, Binsey Walk. 

– Tuesday 26th Foots Cray Meadows to Thames Road Wetlands NR. Meet FCM visitor centre along track off Rectory Lane.

Male Broad-bodied Chaser Dragonfly. (Photo: Ralph Todd)

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Crossness Nature Reserve – new programme of events announced. Potential new members welcome. Possible first record of Bearded Tit breeding at the site.

Upcoming Crossness Nature Reserve events – enjoy, learn and help manage one of Bexley’s finest wildlife sites. 

This Saturday afternoon (15th July), there is a Kids Go Wild event on the nature reserve, where your children or grandchildren might like to try out pond-dipping, mini-beasting and bird watching from 1-2.30pm. If you can’t make this one, feel free to book onto the midweek Kids Go Wild which takes place during the summer holidays on Wednesday 9th August.

Reserve Manager Karen Sutton at Crossness on a previous children’s event. 

Next week there is a conservation task day whereby we’ll be pulling up Ragwort from some of the horse-grazed paddocks on Crossness Southern Marsh. This is taking place on Wednesday 19th July at 10am, where supplied refreshments will be had in the field after all the hard work.

Then there are a couple of site walks, taking in the southern marshes as well as the reserve. There’s a midweek walk, week after next on Thurs 27th July (lunch provided), and a weekend walk on Saturday 5th August whereby you’d need to bring your own lunch/refreshments. Both of these events start at the slightly later time of 11am and will involve approximately 3 hours of slow, steady walking.

Watching Dragonflies and Damselflies at Crossness (Photo: Karen Sutton)

 

Some bat/nocturnal walks will also be taking place in Aug (Southmere Lake area) and Sept (Nature Reserve).

It would be great to see you at these events, so do book on if any sound of interest.

Things go a bit quiet on the wildlife front at this time of year, but nevertheless, we’ve had juvenile Bearded Reedlings in the Protected Area reedbed last week, which I’m really hoping is indicative of them having bred here. As you will know from previous communications, we have had Bearded Tits in the reedbeds since last year and the hope was that they would stay and breed, and while we can’t say absolutely categorically that they did breed at Crossness (they could have made their way over from RSPB Rainham), I think the likelihood is pretty high. This is a site first.

We’ve also had Cuckoo on the Southern Marsh for the first time. We are used to seeing them on the nature reserve in the summer, but not on the southern marsh. The warblers are still around and singing away in the reedbeds, and the Swifts are still screaming away during their feeding frenzies.

 

 

Ffi/booking – Karen Sutton, Biodiversity Team Manager, 07747 643958,  karen.sutton@thameswater.co.uk

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