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 email@example.com 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.
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.