There are a number of consultation deadlines looming on Bexley Council (‘Growth’ strategy, Budget, Flood Review) and key GLA (London Infrastructure plan to 2050) and Transport for London (east London river crossings – yet again) proposals, all of which have major implications for the environment and wildlife in Bexley. See below for details.
It is important to try and influence these because they will be used to justify numerous individual planning decisions and other matters well into the future. So far the Council has not been unduly troubled by criticism of its underlying business-as-usual, ever-more-concrete approach, because people tend to only react once a ‘development’ is proposed for their doorstep, but since not that many people tend to respond to these ‘strategic’ documents, it would start to have an impact if they began to get even a few tens of critical submissions. One thing is for sure, if those of us who cherish nature, understand we are wholly dependent on it and not the other way around, and who believe it should be protected for its own sake don’t speak up, and don’t become more effective at persuading the Council and Councillors that it should be higher up the agenda and that there will be a political cost, including at elections, of destroying ever more of it, all we will be doing for the rest of our lives is documenting its disappearance!
There’s no need to be nervous about putting in comments – if you’re reading this you know more about the environment than most Councillors, and quite probably more than most of them put together. More importantly, you care.
In order to encourage more submissions on these sorts of things (and on key planning applications) from the pro-conservation community, we will henceforth be flagging them up on the Bexley Wildlife calendar page in red. Bexley Natural Environment Forum (BNEF) will endeavour to respond to all of the consultations/plans posted (unless we indicate otherwise) and we will try to get our responses up some time before the deadline so that other groups and individuals can crib from them, but we are all volunteers and somewhat overloaded with other projects, so we apologise in advance if some of our material only appears ‘just in time’ (i.e. just before the deadline …..) ,
Bexley Council ‘Growth’ strategy – ‘Our emerging vision’. Deadline 5/9/2014.
Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
This says it all about the Council’s current concerns (or lack of them). Cut Bexley’s priorities to 3 pages, and wildlife and the environment disappear, which pretty much tallies with the low priority and subservient status given to these matters in the major strategic planning documents. The Council and elected members need to start feeling some heat on this, and that’s down to us.
Their underlying premise is that ‘growth’ is inevitable and that there is no alternative to an ever increasing population and ever more concrete. No ‘vision’ there then. Set against this absurdly deterministic position is the premise that Bexley can then manage all this ‘in the right way’ to produce wonderful dividends for us all, meanwhile protecting ‘all the things that make Bexley a good place to live and work.’ 22,000 new houses are proposed, 11,000 of which are to be in Belvedere. BNEF has written to the Council asking exactly where. The only mention of the ‘environment’ is the poor one resulting from previous industrial use in certain areas, and there is no mention anywhere of the fate of other species in all this.
Despite BNEF’s best attempts there is not the slightest indication that the small matter of resource limitations (water supply in SE England for a start) might get in the way of the Council’s quasi-religious belief that there is no alternative to the unsustainable and irrational pursuit of guzzling ever more resources ever more quickly, or that this is precisely what will inevitably destroy what is good about the Borough – especially if you are unfortunate enough not to be a human being.
So despite the propaganda that the authors are the best people to save us from any possible minor negative effects of trends they pretend are beyond their control , the reality is that they actively support them. The only specific ‘green’ proposal here is to increase ‘air quality’. There is a worrying reference to ‘The addressing of barriers to development such as flood risk’ which threatens to take us away from what we should be doing, which is restoring the ecological integrity of local rivers and their floodplains as much as possible. The questions at the end are, of course, biased as a result – and note the new Thames road bridge on the front.
Unfortunately it will be difficult to change a world-view so heavily ingrained throughout society, but we suggest that you ignore the Council’s questions and instead submit lists of things you do want to see a growth/increase in, such as (yes) a growth in air quality by reducing traffic, growth in the amount of stars you can see at night by turning off street lights from 1-5am, growth in the size of important wildlife sites by allowing adjacent brownfield to return to nature rather than building on it, an increase in the ecological integrity of rivers by digging them out of the concrete (Wansunt) and removing the sluice (Cray), increasing energy security by cutting energy use and setting up a renewable energy company to rent roofs for solar panels with profits going to public coffers, a major increase in the recycling rate (nearly 50% of stuff is still thrown away here) AND in the local availability of recycled products, an increase in biomass (the amount of plants and animals) by cutting less vegetation and less often ……. and so on.
TfL east London river crossings consultation. Deadline 12/9/2014
Again predicated on the more-people-travelling-more-miles-more-often-burning-more-fossil-fuels-is-better and = ‘progress’ world view.
Bexley Council was, until recently, quite clearly against any bridge in practice, on the amazingly rational basis that it would inevitably increase traffic and it didn’t want that to happen. Now TfL are talking about two, one just to the east of the Borough landing at Gallion’s Reach, the other coming into Belvedere, and the Council Leader is making positive noises all of a sudden. Apart from the overall sustainability implications (traffic growth, carbon cost of construction etc.) any bridge funnelling traffic into the north of the Borough threatens pressure for widening Knee Hill (or maybe New Road) and consequently damaging Lesnes Abbey woods. It wasn’t that long ago that the ELRIC (East London River crossing) scheme, which would have put a road through Oxleas woods, was defeated. Boris Johnson cancelled plans for a Beckton-Thamesmead bridge in 2008. TfL should concentrate more on reducing transport need and encouraging modal shift to public transport, cycling and walking.
Bexley Council budget consultation. Deadline 14/9/2014.
The Council is consulting on spend over the next 4 years. Lo and behold there are very large cuts proposed to parks and open spaces management. Meanwhile ever more evidence emerges of the benefits to health and well-being of such places. This presents a challenge to us, as well as an opportunity to get positive changes in vegetation management (sometimes less of it, often better targeted – if we step up to the plate with Friends Groups), but any further staff cuts would make it harder to interface with the Council and enable volunteers to deliver action. We are told that cutting vegetation is cheap, but removing rubbish expensive, The danger is that Friends Groups end up spending even more of their time picking up litter and not much on improving habitat for wildlife.
So where could more money better be saved? Other Councils (including Dartford and Greenwich) rightly see reducing the hours of street lighting as a big ticket money saver (not to mention a positive for the environment). Questions from BNEF have revealed that Bexley is only considering switching to LEDs, not reductions in hours of illumination. The Council’s position is that ‘there were some Coroners reports which considered the lack of lighting was a contributory factor in some fatal traffic accidents and there was little experience of switching off lights in urban areas’. …. and …. ‘there are no plans currently in place to start switching off lights in the borough. We are however gathering information on proposals being taken forwards in Kent and other Counties.’ The Council’s position is that even more cuts will be needed in the future, so we should push at this particular door. Lots of useful supporting info here: http://www.britastro.org/dark-skies/
The latest thinking suggests that broad-spectrum LEDS could be more harmful to wildlife than, for example ‘orange’ sodium lights, so we need to press for dark corridors for Bats etc. between key wildlife sites, as well as the adoption of best practice on wildlife-friendly lighting (e.g. amber LEDS) where lighting of any sort is absolutely necessary.
Greater London Authority. London Infrastructure plan to 2050. Deadline 31/10/2014.
We can’t put it any better than the London Wildlife Trust:
Please support them and Bexley’s green spaces by adding your voice to these criticisms:
More homes and more green space, but where will the space come from?
‘[The plan] claims that the aspirational targets to build 1.5 million homes and other infrastructure will not encroach upon the Green Belt, which we consider an unlikely ambition given the existing pressures to expand. We also note that there are many other valuable green spaces in London that are vulnerable to being lost to development.
The plan also fails to make clear whether the ambitious targets for new, accessible space will lead to a net gain in the quantity of green space. Will the new spaces simply replace other spaces that will be lost, or will existing, closed spaces be made accessible? The greening of street and roofs will be of benefit, but they are not replacements for the loss of complex wildlife habitats.
Critically the Infrastructure Plan needs to result in a significant net gain for wildlife, if it is to make a London a pleasant place to live, work and play. We will work with others to ensure that this can happen.
London Wildlife Trust urges people to respond to the Infrastructure Plan, and to ensure that nature’s place in the future city is sufficiently protected, respected and enhanced.’
Bexley Council Flood review. This delayed consultation is now expected to happen in October.
There are no details at present, but this will be an opportunity to support ‘soft’ flood alleviation/avoidance measures rather than the concrete approach, to press for less hard surfacing – including action on the number of gardens paved over for car-parking etc. – and for further river restoration work, such as on the Wansunt through Crayford.