The 2019 Good Parks for London report makes sobering reading for Bexley, which has been ranked 29th of the 33 Boroughs and City of London after scores were added up across ten different criteria. One of these was ‘Supporting Nature’, in which Bexley was placed in the third points range category of the four used, the fourth being no data/zero.
Bexley scored more poorly than a lot of more urbanised Boroughs on supporting nature in its parks and open spaces.
The poor ‘Supporting Nature’ performance will not come as a surprise to those who follow ‘Bexley Wildlife’, given that this was assessed by having an up to date Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) in place, together with the percentage of parks that have management plans which include BAP objectives and the percentage of Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation in positive conservation management. As ‘BW’ has highlighted before, Bexley Council’s BAP expired in 2015, and it has made no attempt since to sit down or otherwise communicate with those outside of the Council responsible for delivering aspects of it about evaluating progress and updating the document. ‘BW’ has also published the results of a Bexley Natural Environment Forum freedom of information request made a few years ago which revealed that 80% of SINCS wholly or jointly owned by the Council had no management plan. The few that did were almost all several years out of date. That situation has not changed. Clearly you cannot build BAP objectives into non-existent management plans.
The other considerations taken into account were Public satisfaction, Awards for quality (e.g. Green Flags), Collaboration, Events, Health, fitness and well-being, Community involvement, Skills development, Sustainability and Strategic planning. In all but Collaboration, and in Events, where Bexley was put in the top points category, the Borough again managed to secure only the lowest score category above zero.
According to the report, which shows that the criticisms of Bexley’s biodiversity and habitat management planning and performance are well-founded, and not just the preserve of what the Council may prefer to dismiss as an awkward ‘vocal minority’ of residents, Good Parks for London is supported by all London Boroughs and several other partner organisations.
Crossness site manager Karen Sutton reports on events, wildlife, upcoming site maintenance activity and impending disruption to the Thames path arising from Environment Agency works.
Crossness hosted the ‘BEXLEY GREEN DRINKS’ on 11th Sept, which is the social and networking event for local wildlife, conservation and sustainability people in the Borough, and a migrant bird walk on the 19th. Reports on these have appeared in previous ‘Bexley Wildlife’ posts.
Our volunteer, Roger, a licenced bird ringer, received notification from the BTO that a Greenfinch ringed at Crossness on 30th October 2005 as a first year male was found dead (killed by a cat) in Thelwall, Warrington on 27th August 2019. Duration: 5049 days, Distance: 278 km. A 14 year old Greenfinch – quite a record!
Aquatic invertebrate surveys:
We commissioned some aquatic invertebrate surveys (primarily for beetles) back in Autumn 2016 and Spring 2017 across the nature reserve and the southern marsh (12 sampling stations on each site), which revealed some rather interesting invertebrates, of which a good number are considered nationally scarce. When we experienced a pollution incident from the adjacent sewage treatment works in winter 2017, we decided that it would be a good idea to repeat those surveys to give us a clearer idea of the impacts, so we repeated the surveys in Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019.
Although there was the expected and marked differences at individual sampling stations, overall the repeat surveys produced an aquatic species list of high quality, with the species index score showing a slight improvement! So the good news is that there was a remarkable similarity between the two surveys, and that the entomologists think that the pollution incident has had minimal long-term effects – phew!
The full report is provided as a pdf (at the foot of this post) for those of you that might be interested in the detail. The report concludes that the aquatic habitats at Crossness remain largely in good health and that the areas most affected by the pollution incident are recovering well.
Work coming up:
There’s a lot of work coming up on site over the next few weeks and months. Work that you will see going on, includes:
* The installation of a small boardwalk to get visitors over the flooded section of path on Crossness Southern Marsh (the location in which there are currently stepping stones) – next couple of weeks
* Painting/treating the exterior of the bird hide – next couple of weeks/months, depending on weather conditions
* Cut and removal of vegetation on the nature reserve and southern marsh paddocks, involving large agricultural machinery – next couple of weeks
Other work coming up, but not yet timed-in, includes:
* Replacement of the mini-beast area fencing; digging out of Phragmites/Typha on the Education Pond
* Installation of an access structure to the wader scrape island
* Surfacing of the circular path in the Protected Area South
* Resurfacing of Footpath 2 that runs alongside Great Breach Dyke West (between the Protected Area and the southern area kissing gate)
* Ditch dredging on Crossness Southern Marsh
In addition to our work, there’s a large Environment Agency project coming up. I have mentioned this before, but the plans are now longer and more detailed. It involves the refurbishment of the Great Breach Pumping Station and significant work to the outfall. The schedule currently shows work taking place between December 2019 and April 2020. For at least some of that time, there will be path closures in place. Our section of the Thames Path will be closed, and unfortunately, the diversion is long, involving a 57 minute long walk. My understanding is that the ‘Urgent Works’ is the part of the programme that will most affect visitors. This will involve closure of the Thames Path, but also tankering away of the removed silt via our main access path and the Norman Road gates.
The EA has said that it hopes to close the footpath between the east of Riverside Resource Recovery Ltd. and a point immediately to the west of Crossness Sewage treatment plant, with a diversion route signposted. Prior to the closure, it will put up notices along the path to make people aware of the closure when it comes into effect …. However, the footpath will most likely be open at weekends and outside of working hours and the nature reserve will be accessible to members of the public along the access track from Norman Road during weekdays when works are ongoing.
Report and selected photos from the Friends of Crosness Nature reserve bird walk on September 19th follow. There was a good turnout of 17 people, but little sign of the migrant species that had been hoped for. Nevertheless Hobbies, Peregrines, a Barn Owl and a Yellow Wagtail were all seen on a fine sunny day.
The comments by Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve on Cory’s detailed plans for its proposed four storey data centres next to Crossness Local Nature Reserve are reproduced below, along with the personal opinions of Site Manager Karen Sutton (whilst her employer Thames Water is objecting to aspects of the second incinerator scheme, it has not expressed a view on the data centres). These are similar to those submitted by Bexley Natural Environment Foru that were posted a few days ago.
There is significant anger and frustration at Cory’s lack of meaningful consultation with the Friends Group, the failure to provide any adequate ‘mitigation’ for the loss of habitat for species that are nationally, regionally and /or locally rare, the pathetic ‘green wall’ and ‘green roof’ provision, the massive visual impact and the ‘fake views’ in which Cory’s artist’s impressions provide only very misleading images of the finished project. The authors slam much of what is in Cory’s detailed plans as a ‘tick box’ exercise. The authors call upon Bexley to withdraw outline planning permission due to Cory’s failure to meet the Council’s conditions that are supposed to be satisfied before final approval is granted.
Bexley Natural Environment Forum has responded to Cory’s detailed proposals for two huge four-storey data centre buildings on Erith Marshes at Norman Road, adjacent to Crossness Local Nature Reserve, which set out how it intends to comply with the conditions imposed by Bexley Council’s planning committee when it granted outline permission. The Forum’s submission is provided in full below. To help others submit comments, we are working on a summary version which will appear on our Facebook page shortly. Comments should go to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 17th with 15/02926/OUTM02 in the subject line.
If Cory cannot meet those conditions, the development should be rejected. Important Open Mosaic habitat, found to be of at least London level importance for invertebrates will be in large part destroyed, known rarities such as Shrill Carder Bee are not catered for, Skylark nesting and Barn Owl foraging habitat will be lost and not replaced, non-native plantings of limited wildlife value will be made and the hugely negative visual impact cannot be ‘mitigated’ away. The Forum therefore finds that Cory’s scheme will still result in a significant biodiversity loss, contrary to the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework and the Bexley Local Plan, and fails to meet a number of the conditions.
It has made it clear to the Council that if Cory cannot provide empirical evidence regarding any claims of no biodiversity loss or net gain, that it expects Council Officers to do so (putting the supporting data in the public domain) if they re-state them as the Council’s own position. It has also said that seeking to ‘off-set’ the biodiversity damage outside of Bexley would be in contravention of the Council’s policy of protecting and enhancing biodiversity within the Borough’s own boundary.
The company has yet to submit a Biodiversity Management Plan and the Forum has written to the Council raising concerns that this in itself would appear to be in breach of a condition setting out deadlines in the planning process.
There was a time delay in Cory’s documentation appearing on Bexley Council’s planning webpages. The Council has extended the deadline for comments to August 17th accordingly, but only after badgering by campaigners.
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A planning application has been submitted for housing right next to the River Cray, a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and a key wildlife corridor supporting protected species. The deadline for comments and objections is Monday 10th June 2019. Whilst the site has previously been used for industrial purposes and the developer has listened to some of the comments about biodiversity made to its own public consulatation, several grounds for concern remain, and readers are encouraged to submit their views on these matters. A sample submission is provided below. Despite the fact the developer tries to play the effects down, most people will agree that putting up a four-storey apartment block – and a number of other dwellings – very close to the river, is going to have a lasting and very negative impact on the countryside feel of the Cray and its environs downstream of Maiden Lane bridge. The ecology survey included only one day of fieldwork, in the middle of January 2018, and is consequently poor to lacking in important detail. The carbon emissions and car use considerations of any new development are also increasingly important.
(Above: developer’s own artist’s impression of its proposed four storey building right next to the River Cray bank).
The planning application, reference 19/00941/FULM, is for the demolition of existing buildings, rebuilding of the existing Barn to provide 35 residential units (Use Class C3) as Affordable Homes (Shared Ownership and Affordable Rent) comprising 22 x 2 bed flats, 1 x 2 bed house, 7 x 3 bed houses and 5 x 4 bed houses and provision of car parking, cycle parking, landscaping and associated infrastructure.
Comments can be sent to DevelopmentControl@bexley.gov.uk Include the application reference number in the subject line. Or you can register to comment online. Detailed documentation about the plans can be found here:
Bexley Natural Environment Forum is submitting comments on this application, but the more people do so the better. While the BNEF document is awaited, this personal submission provides a ‘crib’ for the sorts of things that those who follow ‘Bexley Wildlife’ might want to look at:
PLANNING APPLICATION 19/00941/FULM
BELLWAY LONDON PARTNERSHIPS. PROPOSED MAIDEN LANE, CRAYFORD,
My personal interests/expertise are that I volunteer with
Thames21 along the River, managing habitat and clearing litter/fly-tipping and
I am volunteer Site Manager of Thames Road Wetland at the other end of By-way
105. I have done considerable amounts of wildlife recording in these and other
parts of Bexley.
My views and concerns about this proposal are as follows:
There is a climate crisis. A number of local
authorities have started passing motions to this effect. The UK has a problem
with the massive stock of existing, very energy inefficient housing. We should
not be adding a further anchor-drag to the business of cutting emissions harder
and faster by building any more net emitters. All developments in the Borough
should henceforth be zero carbon. The developer presents a far less ambitious target.
I am pleased to see a commitment to solar panels
which appeared to be lacking in the developer’s own public consultation
Given that the site is adjacent to a Site of
Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and an important and designated
wildlife corridor, the lack of green/brown/living roofing is disappointing and
out of kilter with the Council’s ‘direction of travel’ on ‘green infrastructure’
as detailed in its emerging ‘Preferred policies’ document. There is no
statement to suggest that all available roof space will be covered in solar
panels, indeed it appears to be the case that apartment block panels would have
to be raised up on frames to achieve optimum angles to the sun.
Even Bexley Council (in its recent ‘growth
strategy’ and Preferred policies documents) now recognises that cars are a
serious land-use issue. At most there should be just a few car-parking spaces
for visitors and none for residents unless for properties specifically designed
for disabled users. This site is a modest walk to a railway station and close
to several main bus routes. Given that the developer proposes 46 non-disabled
car parking spaces it could probably fit in a few more houses if they scrapped
those. I very much doubt that there aren’t enough potential purchasers of a
car-free home in Bexley, London or the UK to fill up the proposed amount of accommodation.
The dynamic around the assumption that we will carry on being dependent on
personally-owned cars needs to be changed. Even the car industry can see the
writing on the wall on this.
The Ecological Report refers to an ‘initial’
walkover on 31/1/2018 but as far as can be ascertained this was the only date
any fieldwork was done, which is exceptionally poor and unacceptable. It is no surprise that most
of the bird species that use the area were not identified, that reptiles and
amphibians were not found or adequately surveyed for, that no Bat detector work
was done to assess the importance of the river corridor for Bat foraging and that
no invertebrate surveying was done.
The reality is that this By-way 105 part of the
Cray is a known Bat foraging corridor. I have had them flying around my head
along the by-way before. I am extremely concerned about the proximity of the
proposed housing to the river and its orientation in respect of light spillage.
The Ecological Management Plan implies no light spillage beyond the development
site boundary, which I find impossible to believe, and whilst the Energy and
Sustainability document talks about sound insulation, it doesn’t say anything
about stopping light escape. There is
also the key issue of the spectrum of lighting used. This at least has ben
recognised. There has been research done on this with amber lighting shown to
be more bat-friendly. Negative impacts on Moths have also been found.
Macro-moths are in serios decline, particularly in south-east England. On summer evenings you are also going to get
noise pollution of a usually tranquil area from open windows.
In this regard it would be better to set
buildings back against the northern margin of the site, rather than close to
It is stated that a Water Vole survey was done and
that there were no signs of any. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it
has to be assumed that this too was only done on 31/1/2018, when the river would
have been high due to winter rain and this fact, plus direct rain effects, are
more likely to have washed away Water Vole field signs. There are Water Voles
along By-way 105. I have seen them since the 2003 record date mentioned. I saw
one at Thames Road Wetland on 28/2/19. They have been found along the Cray as
far as Ruxley Gravel pits at least with a feeding station photographed at the
latter location earlier this year. I would be very surprised and alarmed if
they had suddenly vanished from along 105.
Bexley usually imposes a 5m buffer for Water Vole.
The diagram in the Ecol Man Plan indicates different planting plans for different
width ‘buffer zones’, but it is not clear to what extent this width might be
compromised by existing or proposed buildings. It should be Bexley’s ‘standard’
5m wherever there are no existing buildings, and ideally more than that. It is
not entirely clear whether the developer’s ‘buffer zone’ includes its unspecified
‘ground cover’ shrubs, which may not provide suitable Water Vole habitat. The
whole width of any ‘buffer zone’ should provide suitable habitat for Water
Voles and other native species currently occupying this stretch of the river.
The suggested provision to residents of information
about wildlife sensitivity and appropriate responses to that is welcome, as are
references to wildlife-permeable fencing, but the latter makes it even more important
that steps are taken to prevent domestic
cats that new residents may bring in catching and killing the protected species
of Water Voles and Grass Snakes along the riverbank. There is no reference to
how this is going to be achieved
I welcome the fact that proposed cutting back
overhanging trees along the river, even though they are not adjacent to the site,
has been left out of the formal planning application. The stated reason for
this was to allow local residents on Barnes Cray Road to go down the river in
their boats. The reality is that no one goes boating down there as in winter
you have to lie down in the boat to get under Maiden Lane Road bridge, and in
summer the water level is often below that of the top of the array of rocks
under the bridge. Thames21 already does some selective pruning so we that can
get our boat down the river for removing litter, and this does indeed
necessitate lying flat on/amongst the pile of accumulated rubbish in the boat
on the way back up to our yard. There is far too much of the wrong sort of ‘tidying’
of the local environment and I do not support the idea of corporate interests
sending in the chainsaws.
I am disappointed to see continued reference ‘strengthening’
the riverbank vegetation with additional ‘planting’. In my view – as pointed
out in the response I wrote to the developer’s own consultation, there is no
need for this, and a proper appreciation of local ecology seems to be lacking.
There is already a lot of Sedge, of Lesser Reedmace (the less common of the two
Typhas on the Cray) and a nice swathe of Marsh Marigold adjacent to the
proposed development site.
River-side vegetation will soon fill any bare areas, providing material of local provenance without the developer having to do it (though the fact they are now talking about using plants of local provenance at all indicates some progress in their thinking ….). As I said before, if the applicant wants to do something useful regarding vegetation on the lower Cray it should forget about ‘planting’, and instead help bash the Himalayan Balsam that has now got a foothold here, and the Giant Hogweed on the other side of the river opposite its land – and/or encourage residents to join Thames21 in doing so.
As Biodiversity Officer of the Bexley Federation
of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners I have surveyed almost all the allotment
sites in the Borough for reptiles and amphibians. Grass Snakes and ‘Common’
Toads, both Biodiversity Action Plan species (which kinds of species the existing
Core Strategy specifically says it wants to conserve), and considered to be in
decline, are present on the adjacent Crayford Way allotment site. It is likely
from what plot-holders have said that Grass Snakes breed here. No feature of
the development, including for any emergency-only vehicle access at the eastern
end of the site, should compromise the ability of Snakes to commute between the
river and the allotments, but instead should improve connectivity.
Installation of Bat boxes on buildings would be
appropriate, but could be compromised by the wrong sort of lighting regime. In
respect of the proposal for bird next boxes, House Martin nest cups should be
installed, and Swift nest boxes and if practical (Swifts need a clear 5m drop
and Swift call ‘lures’ should be used to bring them in). Both species forage
around the river and there is a modest House Martin nesting colony not too far
away at Sherwood Crescent by Perry Street Farm. I was told third hand some time
ago that there had once been HM nesting on Maiden Lane, but I have seen no
formal records of this nor have I seen any doing so over the last decade.
The countryside feel of this part of the river will be destroyed by this development, if it is approved. The key consideration is the effect on the view from the London Loop/By-way 105 and I do not agree with the ’objective’ assessment of the Landscape and Visual effects document that the impact will subside from moderate to adverse in year one to moderate to neutral in year 15. The 4 storey apartment block is too large/tall and close to the riverbank to be acceptable and will hugely and permanently alter the character of the area to something more akin to walking along a central London canal edged by tall new-build or warehouse conversions. Visual character will be important not just to locals but to the many people who use By-way 105 as part of various long-distance footpath walking routes.
There were lots of Common Lizards out basking at Thames Road Wetland on Friday 19th October (from memory a record one day count), but only one specimen of each of the other particularly interesting things.
The total Lizard count was of at least 36 Lizards, perhaps as many as 40-41 different animals, all bar one being juveniles and all except three on old car tyres. There was a record 9 Lizards all on one tyre at the same time.
One of each of the following was seen (or heard*): Cetti's Warbler*, Water Rail*, Harvest Mouse nest, Marsh Frog*, Darter Dragonfly sp., Migrant Hawker, Damselfly (almost certainly Willow Emerald), male Common Blue butterfly, Comma, Red Admiral, Small White
I'd made a wrong call on the weather, which was predicted to be like the day before, when there had been several bouts of heavy rain, so I cancelled a joint work session with Ray Hudson, but wound up going down to the site on my own when it became clear that it probably wouldn't rain after all. In fact there was a fair bit of sun and only the tiniest amount of light drizzle in the end, hence all the Lizards.
Thursday 24th October. Bexley RSPB. Nature Walk - Danson Park Location: Danson Park, Bexleyheath. Meet in the Stables Car Park
Late migrants might be on the move with the last of the swallows and martins feeding over the lake and early winter visitors arriving. There are also the residential woodland birds and water birds offering a good variety of birds to be seen.