As previously reported on ‘BW’ we still don’t have an actual date, or even a target date, for Bexley Council to sign-off the Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation review, despite a written reply on the matter from Community Safety, Environment and Leisure cabinet member Cllr. Peter Craske, and there is now a possibility that planning and sell-off decisions could be made before this happens. Bexley Natural Environment Forum has written back raising these issues, and inviting the councillor to make a statement as to which SINCs he thinks should be inviolable and which expendable over the next quarter century.
Dear Cllr. Craske,
We are grateful for your written reply to the question regarding the final sign-off date for the SINC review. It would appear from the 2015 schedule of Londo Wildlife Sites Board meeting dates that their part of the process would be expected to happen in early February 2016. We note that you have still not provided an actual target date for Bexley Council sign-off and that there is no obvious sense of urgency.
Your remit presumably includes responsibility for driving the achievement of the Core Strategy policy set out in CS18 of protecting and enhancing the Borough’s biodiversity. The Lawton review called for greater protection for SINCs, which have been objectively identified as the best and most important sites for wildlife in Bexley. In that context would you comment on the possibility that planning and sale decisions affecting the following sites may be made before the review is signed off, and the concerns that you will have about that:
– Crayford agricultural and landfill, a Borough Grade 2 Site recommended for promotion to Grade 1. Quote from review: ‘The extensive area of the site and its proximity to two sites of metropolitan importance (Crayford Marshes and the River Thames) further increase its value.’
– Land adjacent to Erith Marshes MSINC, which is geographically and functionally part of that site, and that hosts red and amber-listed breeding birds, the ‘development’ of which would have negative biodiversity impacts, including on the existing SINC.
– Land at Old Farm Park recommended for inclusion in the Sidcup rail linesides SINC.
What steps are you taking to ensure that this timing problem does not happen, given that SINC status is a material planning consideration?
You helpfully told me that “there was one alteration to the proposals as far as I am aware, which relates to a stretch of employment land on Norman Road, adjacent to Erith Marshes, and we are not aware of any amendments made by the London Wildlife Trust, although as I said, we will see what they say after their next board meeting”.
For the avoidance of doubt then, would you please confirm that:
– the land in question is, or includes, the two fields on the west side of Norman Road, one lying immediately adjacent to the north side of the Norman Road access trackway running west to the sewage works, and one on the south side, known variously as the Cory/old Borax site fields.
– these two fields were proposed for inclusion in the M041 Erith Marshes SINC, but that Bexley Council acted to remove or omit that recommendation from the Dec 2103 draft review (with the mapping drawn accordingly).
We are not clear how this has anything to do with ‘their next board meeting’, assuming you are talking about the LWSB, unless they are going to be told that this action was taken and are given an opportunity to comment on the matter.
From the point of view of transparency and accountability, it is our contention that residents who have helped pay for the review through their taxes ought to be able to see the full unadulterated recommendations. If the Council wishes to dispute any of them then it should publicly say why.
More generally, we would be interested to know what importance you attach to SINCs in Bexley, given that they are the highest grade of nature conservation land we have in the Borough. For the sake of argument, let’s assume you can influence what happens to them for the next 25 years. Which of the current and proposed SINCS listed in the 2013 draft review do you personally believe should be wholly inviolable during that time? Which do you think are wholly or partly expendable and why? Of the former, will you commit to using your power and influence to try and protect them from ‘development’ during your time as cabinet member for Community Safety, Environment and Leisure?
Thank you for your further attention.
Chris Rose. Vice-chair, Bexley Natural Environment Forum.