Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Battle For Beddington; The Story So Far (in Pictures)


Back in 2008 plans were advancing to build an Incinerator somewhere in South London with Beddington Farmlands being targeted as a potential site. Beddington Farmlands at the time was being restored to a nature conservation area (Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve) within the heartland of the Wandle Valley Regional Park. The restoration programme was being delivered by VIRIDOR in partnership with the local authority and conservation/community groups. The reserve development was due to be a flagship to community partnership delivering a major multi-functional resource in South London for people and nature, providing conservation habitat, amenity, education and health benefits for the local community ; an exemplar of business, local authority, local community and conservationists working together.

Nature Reserve supporters were already frustrated by the delays to delivering the nature reserve and also by conservation targets being missed with an apparent priority being given to business interests over community and conservation interests so when word got out about the incinerator.....' The Battle for Beddington' commenced.

Short-eared Owl- The Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve mascot. The re-colonisation of Short-eared Owl to historical levels will be a good indicator of the success of the reserve development. (pic by Roger Browne) 
David Lindo 'The Urban Birder' describes Beddington Farmlands as 'The Sleeping Giant of London's Natural History World' and becomes a champion for the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve MORE HERE and HERE
I purchase a property ('The Beddington Obs') overlooking the reserve to undertake the most extensive biodiversity survey of the area to date and to co-ordinate the campaign 
The first of a series of local newspaper articles 
A publicity campaign aimed at promoting the reserve development is commenced involving regular public walks, exhibitions at local fairs, newspaper articles, websites and blogging. 

RSPB officials visited in March 2010 which led to the official partnership with the reserve development and the RSPB through the 'London Tree Sparrow Partnership' which was set up the following year 
Tree Sparrow - Beddington's iconic species 
The Incinerator goes public in March 2010 

As part of the publicity campaign Beddington Farmlands birders and naturalists joined forces with David Lindo, London Wildlife Trust reps and other London conservationists  in several London-wide nature focused publicity events including the Tower 42 Migration Watch, Oystercatcher Bird Race for BBC Springwatch and also in the BBC Natural World documentary 'The Un-Natural History of London'. 

In autumn 2010 Reed Planting was carried out as part of the restoration involving the local bird group and local businesses

An article in Birdwatch in September 2010 was published 

The Birds of Beddington Farmlands is published in early 2011. the site's complete avifuana to provide a historical record and a conservation and publicity tool for the nature reserve

Birdwatch magazine describes the Birds of Beddington as an 'Urban Birding Benchmark'

Local Paper on the new book 

Publicity events continued through 2011 including International Dawn Chorus Day

The bird group stand at the Carshalton Environmental Fair was popular. Over the next few years over 350 nature reserve supporters joined the Beddington Farmlands mailing list and attended public walks. Guided tours for local councillors, meetings with the local MP and partnership with other local community groups was also carried out. 
Richard Black from the RSPB on a public event about the London Tree Sparrow Partnership
Local botany expert Peter Wakeham. Extensive works to detail a complete species inventory of the site was well underway. Full pan-species lists will be publicly available here BIODIVERSITY

Public Protest in April 2012 for access to Beddington Farmlands. 
Employees from local environmental charity BIOREGIONAL taking part in National Bee Day. Public engagement events continued through the year.
The biodiversity inventory continues through the year.

Beddington Farmlands becomes a major part of the local community Neighbourhood Plan with the community goal to become a major gateway to the nature reserve and one of the most bio-diverse areas in South London. 

Local council biodiveristy officers working on biodiversity improvements in the local village Hackbridge- which aspires to be a major gateway to Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve and the Wandle Valley Regional Park. 

The year ends with a reception at the House of Lords celebrating success at 'The Environment and Communities Reception' with local conservationists, community members and local politicians hosted by Lord Tope. 


Biodiversity improvements in Hackbridge begin to take shape- enhancing and creating green corridors to link Beddington Farmlands with the local communities

Works are carried out to improve the access to the farmlands on Mile Road Bridge

In April 2013 the Development Control Committee meet to approve the Incinerator plans. A decision is deferred to the GLA and the Secretary of State. Nature Reserve Supporters resist the application on grounds of un-mitigated biodiversity loss, applicants past failure to meet conservation targets, blight on the landscape of the nature reserve and un-mitigated damage to the Wandle Valley Regional Park. Other campaigners resist on grounds of better alternative technology to waste incineration, air pollutions risks and other environmental concerns.  Despite the resistance which is supported by leading conservation bodies and all the local social and environmental groups - the decision is approved and bull-dozed through all the concerns confirming state-sanctioned business interest prioritization . Campaigners move towards judicial review on the decision. MORE HERE and Protest video HERE

Public walks continue through the year (pic by Roger Browne) 
Nature Reserve publicity campaigns continue through the year- this one at the Wandle Valley Regional Park Forum
A new annual report 'The Birds and Wildlife of Beddington Farmlands' is launched which develops the earlier Beddington Farmlands Bird Report to cover wider biodiversity. Viridor kindly funded the production.


EXTINCT? - Due to restoration delays, failure of conservation targets and loss of tree habitat on site Beddington Farmlands iconic species the Tree Sparrow undergoes a dramatic and sudden population crash. Only one pair return to breed in summer of 2014- from a peak of nearly 1000 birds present in July 2007.

Birdwatch article about the threat to Beddington Farmlands and the Judicial Review. Various fund raising events to raise money to support the JR were on-going MORE HERE and re-work of article for local news source HERE

As part of the local community aspiration to become a major gateway to the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve a new town sign is created featuring birds (and the Beddington Short-eared Owl) as the local village mascot. 
Restoration works continued at the farmlands including the planting of 2000 trees on the southern mound.
A wildflower meadow by the bird hide- part of a whole series of habitat improvements by local community members.  
Public walks, local fairs, promotion, campaigning, conservation, monitoring and further development of the species inventory continued through the year (despite the looming incinerator issue and delay in the restoration programme). 
Local Green Party leader Shasha Khan files for judicial review of the Incinerator decision and in May 2014, the review is granted permission by the High Court. The hearing should take place sometime in October 2014. MORE HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE
July 2014- Mark Constantine, owner of High Street chain LUSH kindly agrees to provide vital support for the cause MORE HERE

THE FUTURE?.......

Is it possible to deliver a premier urban nature reserve at Beddington Farmlands, an exemplar of business, local authority, local community and conservationists working together?......time will tell, hope so.

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