‘Consultation’ on destruction of important Erith Quarry wildlife site

The former Erith Quarry site, ‘the last great wilderness in Bexley’,  is a Grade 1 Bexley Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, but is now under threat of being built on. It has been damaged in the past by inappropriate management, most notably bulldozing by previous owners DHL Limited a couple of years ago. Its security staff stated that this was being done ‘to control Japanese Knotweed’, a clearly dishonest and laughable claim. Although the matter was taken up with Bexley Council, there is no evidence that it took any action at all to voice concerns about clearance of the important scrub here.

Now the new landowners are ‘consulting’ on development plans which would undoubtedly mean a significant diminution in the wildlife value of this important site. Unfortunately it has long been zoned for some development by Bexley Council, albeit with specified protections to mature tree belts and views over the Thames, and an official recognition that the local area is deficient in ‘open space’, which may automatically save some of it. Unhelpfully, however, it is also one of that champion of the environment Boris Johnson’s ‘opportunity zones’ for yet more concrete pouring.

Scrub is important habitat in its own right and there is a sorry track record of protecting it in Bexley, with the Vicarage Road land in Old Bexley having been repeatedly bulldozed by reckless owners over the last couple of years. Bexley Natural Environment Forum has sought to remove Erith Quarry from the list of identified ‘development’ land, and will consequently be mounting a robust defence of the site. We want it to be allowed to recover its full scrubland potential as a key site for breeding birds and other species. We are seeking urgent clarification from the Council as to whether the SINC designation came before or after the development zoning, as this would have implications for the protection of other SINCs. To get involved contact Chris Rose <chrisrose@gn.apc.org>

The Erith Quarry site seen from Hollyhill Open Space in June 2014. There used to be considerably more valuable scrub until former owners DHL Ltd bulldozed the site, despite it being at the highest grade of Borough level importance for wildlife. (Photo: Chris Rose).

The Erith Quarry site seen from Hollyhill Open Space in June 2014. There used to be considerably more valuable scrub until former owners DHL Ltd bulldozed the site, despite it being at the highest grade of Borough level importance for wildlife. (Photo: Chris Rose).

The public exhibitions will take place at Trinity School, in Erith Road, Belvedere on Saturday, July 19 from 11am to 4pm and on Tuesday, July 22 from 4pm to 8pm.

Local conservationists should take the opportunity to attend the consultation events to see exactly what is proposed. No doubt we will be told that building on the site is going  to be great for wildlife, and that 20th century standards of energy and water efficiency and plenty of land wasted on car parking are just what we need in the third millenium.

The Erith Quarry site is bounded by Riverdale Road to the north, Birch Walk/Bexley Road to the east, Carlton Road to the south and Brook Street/Erith Cemetery to the west. There is no public access, but good views across it to Erith can be had from Hollyhill Open Space off Brook Street, and Google Earth will give a clear picture of what an important site it is from a size point of view.

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