Erith Quarry, a Grade 1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation in the Borough, is the subject on an impending planning application for up to 600 houses, which would see a substantial area of important grass and scrub-land disappear.
In 2013 existing and potential new SINCs were surveyed by London Wildlife Trust on behalf of Bexley Council. According to LWT’s report, they were unable to get access to the Erith Quarry site because of an ongoing change of ownership. The new owners have since had paid ‘ecological consultants’ to examine the site prior to submitting their plans to the Council. Meanwhile the SINC report has still not been signed off due to re-organisation within the Council.
Bexley Natural Environment Forum has written to the relevant officer at Bexley Council as set out below, to ensure that if any amendment to Erith Quarry’s SINC citation is considered following any submission of biodiversity data to the Council by the ‘developer’ or its agents, then this is subject to the same public scrutiny as the original draft report.
Ray Gray, Chair of BNEF said ‘ Private landowners are at liberty to refuse access to their land for people conducting SINC reviews, but we cannot set a precedent whereby they are allowed to try and influence the review in a way that avoids the public consultation that has applied to the rest of the sites under consideration.’
For reasons why Erith Quarry is a very important for wildlife see:
Letter to the Council:
Could you please confirm in writing, as discussed at our recent meeting, that BNEF/the public will have the opportunity to comment on any changes proposed to the Erith Quarry citation as a result of data gathered and presented to the Council by or from the ‘developer’s’ ‘ecologists’.
As we said at the meeting, it would not be acceptable for the site owner, having avoided survey during the Council (i.e. public’s) own review, and thereby circumvented the scrutiny and public consultation that has led to the ‘final report’, to be able to now influence that report in any way without an opportunity for public to comment – before the Council signs off on the review as a whole – on any submission they might now make (long after the public consultation period has closed).
Whilst we are not seeking to impugn the motives of any particular ‘ecological consultants’, nevertheless they are in the pay of an organisation that has a commercial interest in arguing that as much of the site as possible is ‘expendable’ from a wildlife conservation point of view, and in otherwise minimising the constraints on the nature of any development arising from biodiversity considerations. They cannot, therefore, be seen as ‘independent’ in the way that the surveyors hired by the Council to conduct the SINC review were.
Yours, Chris Rose. Vice-chair, Bexley Natural Environment Forum.