Bexley Natural Environment Forum has become increasingly exasperated with the way may open spaces in the Borough have been managed, the lack of biodiversity awareness and joined-up thinking and the obvious potential for enhancing the wildlife value of sites whilst at the same time saving money. Our attempts to tackle this through dialogue with Council officers alone have not made the sort of progress we are looking for. Broadly-speaking, there is a lot of inertia, inflexibility and probably a shortage of the necessary skills. partly stemming from the existing grounds maintenance contract.
The Forum is therefore working on a presentation to the Scrutiny Committee that deals with these issues so that we can talk directly to the most relevant Councillors. In order to do that we need more information about what management plans (if any) exist, particularly with regard to designated Sites of Importance to Nature Conservation, and how up to date they are. We have taken the opportunity to ask whether recent ‘management’ along the Wyncham and Shuttle accord with any such plans or are, in any more general sense, considered by the Council to be commensurate with the SINC status of these sites.
Here is the text of the letter we sent to appropriate Council officers on March 1st. We have yet to receive a reply:
Dear [Council Officers],
BNEF is starting work on a presentation to Scrutiny Committee on the role of the Local Authority regarding biodiversity, and how we see that being better translated into action through the management of SINCs and other open spaces, the current budget context and the role our affiliated groups can play in all of this.
In order to better inform our efforts could you please supply us with a list of SINCs and the titles and dates of the most recent management plans that exist for them in relation to biodiversity considerations, also such plans for non-designated open spaces that touch on such matters. Where no such plan is listed we shall assume that no consideration is given to biodiversity, unless there is some over-arching document that covers biodiversity and general grounds maintenance, in which case please list that also.
We would also like to know how we can get hold of copies of any such documents. We are aware of some of them, such as the plan for the Shuttle, the old-ish EWOS management plan (for which we have hard copies), but it has been mentioned, for example, that there is an old Danson Park plan somewhere. We would hope that there are a significant number of others.
You will be aware that this issue has flared up again in recent weeks, with complaints being made to us and in the media over the extent of vegetation removal along the Shuttle and Wyncham Stream. We have previously reported that we have found Water Vole as far up the Shuttle as Albany Road, and possibly Marlborough Park. That was 2013. For a number of reasons we did not get any more survey work done in 2014. It is entirely conceivable that WV was already present up as far as Hollyoak, or has penetrated that far since, and could use the Wyncham stream. We would be interested to know whether this possibility was factored into the recent operation that has left the Shuttle banks by Hollyoak Wood extremely exposed, never mind any 5m ‘buffer zone’ of adequate cover.
We would also be interested in your views as to whether removal of all the Bramble etc. along the woodland edge is consistent with the BAP policy (that BNEF originally proposed) of developing ‘soft’ rather than ‘slab’ edges to Bexley woodlands, a policy that would not appear to be being implemented anywhere so far – though if it is we would be pleased to hear about the locations. No one is arguing there should never be any control of Bramble and the like. At issue is the removal (not for the first time) of whole swathes of vegetation at once, which appears to have nothing to do with any proper concern for biodiversity, and everything to do with expediency.
Thanks, Chris Rose. Vice-chair, BNEF.