Vandalising an Asset of Local Value

A Site of Importance

The history of Gunnersbury Triangle Local Nature Reserve is tumultuous from the start.

The Triangle started out as a plot of land earmarked for development by British Rail back in the 1980s. However there was a Public Inquiry, which ruled in favour of nature in a city.

Thus Gunnersbury Triangle was designated as a nature reserve.

Since then, the Triangle has been officially recognised as a Local Nature Reserve. It was also handpicked by the Mayor of London’s office to become a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation.

It is literally a very important plot of land.

A Site Always Under Threat

Astoundingly, rather than being carefully looked after, threats to the Triangle’s very existence are never far away.

  • Ongoing major developments at Chiswick Business Park.
  • Flood lights on surrounding plots.
  • Two big residential developments right on its border.

All this has already damaged The Triangle’s ability to provide safe habitat for local wildlife. Now a tiny scrap of land right next to the reserve has fallen prey to developers.

Species you can see at Gunnersbury Triangle

Take a look at the list of species that you can find in this sanctuary surrounded by tube lines. It is not difficult to see why it has been named as one of the most important nature reserves in Greater London.

Amphibians: Common toad, smooth newt, common frog
Birds: Green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, blackcap, sparrowhawk
Invertebrates: Speckled wood butterfly, orange tip butterfly, ivy bee, stag beetle, azure damselfly
Mammals: Hedgehog, field vole, wood mouse, pipistrelle bat, noctule bat
Plants: Hogweed, broom, ragwort, turkeytail bracket fungus

All the above means that the custodians of The Triangle should be treating it with the utmost care. Any doubts about this should be raised and discussed as a matter of priority.

Development at Gunnersbury Triangle Nature Reserve

A new five-story block of nine luxury flats is planned to be constructed on the scrapyard bordering the Gunnersbury Triangle Nature Reserve.

This may have caused concerns for the London Wildlife Trust (LWT), which manages the reserve and holds a portacabin at the entrance as their office space. However, any concerns have been assuaged by the promise of a brand-new permanent office facility that will be constructed alongside the block of flats. The London Wildlife Trust have therefore added their seal of approval to this venture.

LWT even go as far as being ‘very grateful to London Borough of Hounslow for their support in these new and exciting plans’ .

Of course this ‘support’ from Hounslow is deeply embedded in the desire to generate a lot of money from this development. Adding a visitors centre for the London Wildlife Trust is a small price to pay for the developer.

Current London Wildlife Trust Office at Gunnersbury Triangle

The Planning Meeting

Ealing Council’s Planning Committee met on Wednesday 16 January 2019. The development of the Gunnersbury Triangle scrapyard was the only item on the agenda. For the Committee to meet over just one proposal is apparently highly unusual, as local councillor Andrew Steed (Liberal Democrats) remarked.

Mr Steed, along with the designated objector (Marijn van de Geer of the Ealing Green Party and local resident), raised grave doubts as to whether these plans should be approved.

These doubts centred around:

• The impact that the construction of the tower block will have on the delicate biodiversity that is preserved at The Triangle. Although the London Wildlife Trust has dismissed the risk as ‘negligible’, they cannot guarantee this.
• The effects two other recently constructed developments on biodiversity in the area. There are no reports from “before and after” these developments were built. However, local residents and regular visitors say that the decline of wildlife in the nature reserve is clearly visible.
• An incomplete Planning Application. There is no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), no Environmental Statement (ES), no official EIA Screening Report, and no Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP).
• Inadequate publicity was given to these proposals from the start. Also the Planning Committee Meeting was announced just a week before it took place. This appears to be common practice for Ealing, and no good reason has ever been given.

Finally there are major problems with the document that forms the basis of the Planning decision.

The Planning Officer’s report

There are issues with the Planning Officer’s interpretation of Policy 7.19 of the London Plan .

Policy 7.19 of the Plan states the following:

‘On Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation development proposals should: give strong protection to sites of metropolitan importance for nature conservation (SMIs). These are sites jointly identified by the Mayor and boroughs as having strategic nature conservation importance’ (Biodiversity and access to nature, Section D).

The Planning Officer’s report ignores this.

Policy 7.19 goes on to state:

‘… when considering proposals that would affect directly, indirectly or cumulatively a site of recognised nature conservation interest, the following hierarchy will apply:

  1. Avoid adverse impact to the biodiversity interest
  2. Minimise impact and seek mitigation
  3. Only in exceptional cases where the benefits of the proposal clearly
    outweigh the biodiversity impacts, seek appropriate compensation.’

    (Biodiversity and access to nature, Section E).

An Inconvenient Point

The Planning Officer decided to ignore point 1 above, which is to avoid adverse impact to the biodiversity interest. The reality is, as this is a hierarchical list, he should never even have moved on to points 2 and 3.

Point 1 alone clearly demonstrates that the development should not go ahead. Otherwise the development would not be in line with the London Plan’s Biodiversity and access to nature.

The policies of the London Plan take precedent over anything else, because the site is of Metropolitan Importance. This means it is important not just for Ealing but for all of London. By approving the development, the Planning Committee goes against the Mayor’s biodiversity policy.

A proposal to defer the planning decision due to these many concerns was firmly rejected by all Labour councillors present.

Currently wildlife can exit The Triangle via the scrapyard: it is the only way they can get out (closed in by buildings or tube lines on all the other sides). Once the new building is up, the scrapyard will be blocked, and so will this bit of wild greenery next to it which sits in between the scrap yard and the railway line. So wildlife will be forced to enter and leave the Triangle via the railway.
Wildlife corridor Next to Railway Line – soon to be blocked off.

An Asset of Local Value

There is another significant point to note. The proposal to designate Gunnersbury Triangle an “Asset of Local Value” will be considered in early February.

Many feel that the scrapyard development proposal appeared before the Planning Committee very abruptly, showing that there was a rush for the proposal to be approved. Was this to avoid the issue of an Asset of Local Value putting a spanner in the works for the developers?

Questions for London Wildlife Trust

So what have the London Wildlife Trust got to say about this? Obviously, it is great that they will get enhanced office and visitors space, but did they really need this development to take that desire forward?

It has been mentioned that £800,000 in Section 106 money has not yet been officially accounted for from the previous developments on the border of The Triangle. Why didn’t they push this point harder?

One of Labour’s councillors argued that the London Wildlife Trust’s open support for the development must be a deciding factor (“they would hardly support the destruction of their own nature reserve”). This ignores the fact that LWT is a tiny, overstretched, understaffed and underfunded charity with its back against the wall.

Whether they had much option other than to support this development remains to be seen.

A Concerning Lack of Concern

When it came to the vote to approve the proposal at the Planning Committee meeting, all 10 Labour councilors voted in favour. The Labour members of the planning committee evinced an air of detachment throughout the proceedings.

They were uninterested in biodiversity. They were uninterested in the other developments that had already adversely affected wildlife in the area. They were uninterested in the timing of this meeting and arguments for the decision to be deferred.

Labour had come in to do one thing: push this development through. And such is their power in local government that nothing was going to stop them.

Article by Marijn van de Geer and Jeremy Parker

Manifesto: 2018 Council Elections

We love Ealing, and we want to keep it wonderful for you by adding a Green voice to Ealing Council.

You have three votes.  Make one of them Green where you live on 3 May to get a collaborative, innovative councillor in your area.  If elected, we promise:

  • Green spaces: 

    We will protect, enhance and grow our green spaces, both parks and natural habitats.  We want a pesticide-free Ealing, with big plans to reduce plastics and fossil fuel use.  We will do everything we can to keep Warren Farm and all Metropolitan Open Land for the common good.  London can truly be a National Park City.

  • Democracy and transparency:

    We will always listen, and put residents first in everything we do. We work for you and will publish all the data, minutes and decisions we can.

  • Housing:

    We have bold ideas that are an alternative to runaway development and high rise flats.  We will be a voice for residents.  We will provide resident-led, genuinely affordable housing on existing developed land, with holistic planning.  We’ll change the Council Tax rules to make sure homes are for people to live in, not empty shells for investors. We endorse and will deliver Community Land Trusts.

  • Cinema:

    We will actually deliver a cinema.

  • Safety:

    We will make our streets and public open spaces safer and more pleasant for everyone, with reduced traffic. Walking and cycling must be safe and accessible.  Uxbridge Road and other roads need a Healthy Streets rethink.

  • Health:

    We must save Ealing Hospital as well as the rest of the NHS. Read more here.

  • Security and wellbeing:

    We will keep you safe and healthy, working with police and voluntary groups to help the most vulnerable.

  • Air pollution:

    We will make Ealing and Hanwell more beautiful and tranquil, with less noise and air pollution.  We will divest Ealing’s fossil fuel pensions.

  • Poverty:

    We promote dignity, equality, social justice and human rights for all. Nobody in Ealing will be homeless.

  • Local business:

    We will champion and revitalise local businesses and good jobs, listening to what support local entrepreneurs need while working nationally to prevent a hard Brexit.

  • HS2:

    We will make the redevelopment of Old Oak Common a ‘people’s’ development, fighting to mitigate pollution, disruption and noise from HS2 and its construction for local residents.

  • Heathrow:

    We will genuinely oppose Heathrow expansion and the noise and pollution that would bring, while protecting local jobs and making the existing airport a better neighbour.

Protecting Green Spaces

BRP north - Alford

Ealing’s green open spaces are one of our greatest assets. From Gunnersbury Park to Northfields allotments to the expanses of the Brent River Park and Horsenden Hill, our green spaces provide facilities for sport, exercise, quiet enjoyment or growing food. And Green open space has been shown to improve mental and physical well-being for people of all ages.

Our green spaces also provide a haven for wildlife. Without them, many species of plant and animal life could not survive in the borough. And our green spaces have the lowest levels of air pollution, and they help to ameliorate the effects of climate change.

Spending on parks has always been a very small proportion of the council’s budget. And yet despite their importance to our quality of life, Ealing’s parks and other open spaces have suffered savage cuts in investment in recent years.

New Threats to Our Green Spaces

And now there are further threats: Ealing council plans to take Warren Farm out of public use.  The land is going to Queen’s Park Rangers football club for a training facility. Northfields allotments are threatened by a new housing development.

Ealing Green Party believes that all green open space should be protected. We also believe public access should be provided wherever possible. We recognise there are pressures to build more homes and provide other facilities, but we are adamant that these homes and facilities should not be built on green open spaces.

When our green spaces shrink, our quality of life is reduced.

How You Can Help
Support the campaign to Save Warren Farm: http://www.savewarrenfarm.com/
Support the campaign to Protect Northfields Allotments: https://www.facebook.com/savenorthfieldsallotments/

Organisations and Groups You Can Join
Hanwell & Norwood Green Orchard Trail: https://orchardtrail.wordpress.com/
Ealing Friends of the Earth: http://www.ealingfoe.org.uk/
Ealing Wildlife Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ealingwildlife/

Article by Nic Ferriday

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